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Most Organizations Plan to Return to Work by End of Summer

Most organizations believe it will be safe to return to the workplace this summer with enhanced cleaning, sanitation and PPE protocols in place.


This was a main finding in the “Back to Work Playbook Study” conducted by WorldatWork and HALO Recognition. More than two-thirds (67%) of the 601 organizations surveyed plan to resume, or have already resumed, “normal” operations by end of summer. The majority (25%) of organizations plan to resume normal operations in June, 19% plan to in July, 6% in August, 16% in September and 4% in October — 13% are deferring normal operations until 2021.

Organizations are either considering or implementing several preventive measures for the return to the office, which include additional cleaning measures (85%), limiting the size of meetings or banning meeting spaces (83%) and adding more personal space or barriers around the office (67%). Other measures employers are implementing or considering are requiring employees to wear masks (64%), temperature screenings before entering (52%), permanently allowing some employees to work remotely (50%), expanding PTO or sick days available (15%), requiring employees to wear gloves (13%) and requiring a COVID-19 test or antibody test (7%).

“In addition to highlighting the varied methods companies will utilize to keep employees safe, this survey demonstrates that organizations are quickly adapting to the new workplace,” said Scott Cawood, president and CEO, WorldatWork. “This crisis has shown, importantly, just how nimble organizations can be when they need to be. Organizations can make rapid, sweeping changes when an emergency requires it.”

When employees do return to the office, many employers (63%) said they will provide them with personal protective equipment such as a mask, gloves and hand sanitizer.

The airline industry has been affected greatly during the pandemic and while some organizations (24%) don’t intend to allow business travel for the foreseeable future, 56% said it will be permitted but only on a limited basis for essential matters.

“Business travel is important to many companies, especially those who thrive on maintaining client and customer relationships, and not to mention those who base product launches around conferences and expositions,” said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications at HALO Recognition. “I think we might all agree that in-person meetings are preferred when trying to make a solid business connection based on trust, so that will be important to getting things up and running to some semblance of normalcy. However, that’s assuming the travel industry itself can get up and running while keeping people safe. Until then the priority should be on employee health and well-being, even if that means skipping a few public appearances.”

Most organizations plan to accommodate employees with children by allowing them to continue remote work (81%) or flexible schedules (73%).

Additional Key findings:

  • 38% of organizations will conduct or have conducted an employee survey to assess comfort levels with returning to the workplace.
  • The primary focus for return to work planning is on practices to ensure the safety and health of employees, with nearly one third planning to implement employee reengagement initiatives. 26% of organizations are implementing or planning to implement enhanced wellness programs and 12% are adding or enhancing recognition programs.
  • Three-quarters of organizations will regularly monitor behavior of employees; 29% expect employees to report violations (anonymously or not); 10% will use formal penalties.

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is a professional nonprofit association that sets the agenda and standard of excellence in the field of Total Rewards. Our membership, signature certifications, data, content, and conferences are designed to advance our members’ leadership, and to help them influence great outcomes for their own organizations.

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