Returning Workforce: Tips to Help Bring Employees Back to the Office

Across the working world, many employers need to prepare for their returning workforce. Employees may have been working from home for several weeks or even a few months due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some offices and facilities may have closed very quickly to meet local or state requirements. How should employers approach welcoming employees back to the workplace?

Relocation Industry Suppliers Share Plans for Their Returning Workforce

GMS interviewed five relocation industry suppliers to find out what they plan to do for their returning workforce. We spoke with one supplier in the Household Goods Moving Industry, one Real Estate Broker, one Corporate Housing Provider, one Destination Services Provider, and one Home Mortgage Lender. We also asked these companies to share any resources they used to help them define their approach.

Each of these companies are leaders in their respective industries. As a result, their answers provide a wealth of insight and knowledge. GMS clients may be able to learn valuable information they can use as they develop their own plans for their returning workforce.

Household Goods Moving Company Plans for Their Returning Workforce

Mike McGill, Senior Vice President: Mills Van Lines

“From a remote work standpoint, the main area that this has impacted is our office staff that supports all of the services being performed in the field – i.e. sales, customer service and accounting – most of whom started working from home on 3/16. Thanks to the technology available to all of us, the transition from in-office to remote work was quite seamless and has enabled us to continue to function without interruption (I can’t imagine what we would have done if this pandemic struck 20 years ago). That being said, we run a single location company, with our HQ facility in Ohio. We have been following all of the guidelines of local, state, and federal government – as well as the CDC – and will continue to do so.

Governor of Ohio Announcements

The governor of Ohio made announcements earlier this week that they will allow non-essential businesses to start a phased opening – with some starting back up on 5/1 (doctor/dentist/veterinarian offices), others on 5/12 (retail and consumer stores), and even more later in the month (likely restaurants, bars, and salons). As part of those announcements, the governor requested that individuals who can work from home should continue to do so for the time being.

Communications to Team Members

We have communicated to our team members that we will continue to follow the guidance of the governor, and that we would like them to work remote until further notice. When we get to a point where it is safer to be out and about, we will definitely allow them to return to the office, but we have also let them all know that it will be up to each of them individually to decide when they feel ready to do so.

Adjustments Made to Enable Staff to Return to Office

Regardless of when the offsite staff does return to our office, we have already made adjustments to enable them to do so. Effective in early March we ramped up cleaning and disinfectant activities at our facility. We also started placing bulk orders back in March for supplies like disinfectant soap, hand sanitizer, and masks – and those orders have been arriving over the past 6 weeks. And we have asked that everyone keep 6 feet apart when interacting within the facility. We are fortunate because we have a good amount of space in our office that will allow for our entire returning workforce to be here at work and still be more than 10-15 feet apart at all times.”

Real Estate Broker Plans for Their Returning Workforce

Erik R. Brown, Realtor®, TV host, speaker, and author of “One in a Million: Everything You Need to Know to Find the Best Realtor®”: Compass

“We are following the guidelines of our local health officials and authorities. Fortunately in our world, we can work remotely while still servicing our clients’ wants and needs effectively. When California’s Safer at Home order is lifted (currently scheduled for 5/15), there will be social distancing recommendations for offices to follow. I am thankful that Compass is so agent-centric and forward thinking to plan for the long term health of our agents and staff.

Appropriate Social Distancing

Thankfully as a Realtor® I don’t handle the office administration; that is a massive job WITHOUT the intricacies of prepping for appropriate COVID-19 best practices! I know both in office and while showing homes and properties, appropriate social distancing, masks, small groups and the like are and will be the norm for the foreseeable future. Though I miss handshakes and hugs, I am a black belt in Zoom. 🙂

I am communicating much more online and the phone. Virtual meetings, Facebook Lives, Video messaging were a part of my practice, but now are commonplace for my team and me to communicate with clients, prospects, vendors, and colleagues. I have utilized virtual assistants for years, so developing an online infrastructure was something I did years ago. Much of our work then has become the foundation of what we do now.”

Corporate Housing Provider Plans for Their Returning Workforce

Ann Moore, Managing Partner: ATB Furnished Housing

“Although we all miss ‘normalcy’ ATB will resume business in stages based on our success rate of keeping our team healthy and virus free and our plan to open reflects this strategy. Because we support many of the essential businesses such as health care and transportation, our main office has never completely closed. However, 80% of our staff have been working remotely and critical function associates are done in shifts to reduce contact. We plan to keep all remote workers that can effectively work from home doing so until May 31.

Critical operational associates will be returning to work full time in the office as of Monday May 4th with guidelines regarding each employees’ personal home life scenario and safety concerns. All associates will be provided with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to be used routinely when in the office as well as when traveling to and from the office. We will continue to limit travel and in person meetings will be restricted to three or less people. With the technology available to us for video conferencing we strongly feel there is no need to rush back to an environment of high level risks.

CDC Guidelines and Recommendations

Per the CDC guidelines and recommendations, our offices have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis and all high touch surfaces are re-cleaned every three hours. We are fortunate that all of our work stations and offices are well over six feet apart so we do not need to re-configure to accommodate social distancing policies. As of Monday May 4th, we will be doing temperature checks upon reporting to work and will continue to be vigilant on assessing and tracking the virus statistics in our state and will not hesitate to resume a shelter in place policy as needed.

Keeping our team healthy and safe is our top priority. In an effort to be pro-active beyond the suggested preventative measures for spreading the virus, ATB will be focusing on educating our team about healthy immune boosting food choices and will be stocking the break room appropriately based on the suggestions of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. We look forward to a return to normal operations but also realize our role in doing so responsibly.”

Destination Services Provider Plans for Their Returning Workforce

John Merriweather, CEO and President: GO Destination Services

“Our team is eager to return to the corporate office in Carmel, Indiana. We are hiring a professional sanitizing company to keep employees safe. We will have a gradual return to the office on staggered work shifts based on desk proximity and job function. All meetings will conducted by video chat or phone call.”

Home Mortgage Lender Plans for Their Returning Workforce

Matt Canfield, Senior Vice President, Relocation and Affinity Lending: TIAA Bank

“Our leadership is evaluating when we will be able to return to our office environment, with a focus on keeping our team safe and healthy. At this point, we anticipate that this remote work guidance will remain in effect until further notice and the timing is right. For the near future many of our associates find them working from a new office—their homes. We have some great internal resources for Working Effectively in Today’s Environment to help our team through this tough time and keep our team happy, healthy, safe and productive.”

What Does This Mean?

Each company is unique in its workplace and culture. Also, various locations may need to address specific issues that depend on a variety of factors, from government regulations to the availability of transportation or child care. Companies in the planning stages for their returning workforce should leverage resources and expertise that can help them determine how to create appropriate measures while ensuring employee safety.

Conclusion

GMS’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients with their talent management programs. As a result, our team can help employers with a variety of issues as they plan for their returning workforce.

GMS was the first relocation company to register as a .com. The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.

Learn best practices from Global Mobility Solutions, the relocation industry and technology experts who are dedicated to keeping you informed and connected. Contact our experts online to learn more about how your company can leverage resources to plan for its returning workforce, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.

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