Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, states across the U.S. have begun taking gradual steps to reopen their economies. As individual businesses consider how to approach reopening, a survey recently conducted by real estate analysis and investment firm CBRE Group shows that 72 percent of companies surveyed are planning a phased reopening approach with specific percentages of groups of employees being admitted into the office over the course of weeks or months.
To gather their data, CBRE surveyed account leaders across 203 large companies in its Global Workplace Solutions business, which handles facilities and real estate projects for large companies. These account leaders organize client relationships across 4.2 billion square feet of workspace in various types of offices from real estate to tech space to retail and more, and oversee more than 38 million workers.
“Our analysis of our clients’ return-to-work strategies shows that virtually all are engaged in detailed planning to ensure a careful and reasoned approach,” Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of consulting and global lead for CBRE’s COVID-19 response for occupier clients, said in a statement.
“Most of these companies have established their own criteria for when to return to the workplace beyond local and state government requirements,” Ellzey added. “And nearly three-quarters plan to bring employees back in phases rather than all at once.”
Nearly half (45 percent) of CBRE’s companies will follow guidance from local governments and health agencies regarding social distancing. An additional 34 percent of companies will set their own social distancing guidelines that may be more stringent than local guidance, requiring at least six feet of separation.
A small majority — 59 percent — of companies will provide face coverings for employees. Twenty-eight percent of companies reported that face coverings would be required at all times at any company property. Forty-two percent of companies stated that face coverings would be required at company facilities only where mandated by local governments or health agencies.
Just 45 percent of companies will require off-site self-screening for coronavirus symptoms by employees before the arrive to work and 13 percent of companies will conduct screening of employees for symptoms on-site.
In terms of reopening timeline, just 20 percent of companies plan to reopen once government restrictions are lifted. Forty-two percent stated they would reopen after internal standards were met.
At 82 percent of companies surveyed, most are preparing workspaces by installing new signage. Many companies are also outlining space-use policies and social distancing guidelines (78 percent of companies), establishing social distancing zones through floor decals and other office reminders (74 percent) and rearranging office furniture (61 percent).
The majority of companies will not initially allow visitors into offices, with only 21 percent allowing office visitors in the first phases of reopening.
“With so many essential workers already performing their jobs at commercial properties, there is much that the industry is learning and adapting,” Ellzey said. “At the same time, companies must continually monitor local health conditions as they undertake further reopening efforts.”