By now, most of the country is in some phase of re-opening aftermonths of stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sofar, states have focused on retail and restaurants in phasedre-opening plans, but office-using businesses are starting toimagine a path to populating buildings again. Like retailers, mostbusinesses will execute a phased re-opening, with office workersreturning slowly and in groups, according to a study fromCBRE. The study found that 72% of businesses willconduct a phased reopening.

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"As our study indicated, most companies and organizations willuse a phased re-entry strategy. Common responses range from 15-20%of employees returning to their place of work for each phase,"Karen Ellzey, executive managing director ofCBRE's reopening the world's workplaces taskforce, tellsGlobeSt.com. The study found that 78% of companies will implementsocial distancing in the workplace, and 59% of businesses willrequire facemasks.

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There are a number of benefits to a phased return Chiefly, itwill help create a safe spaces for workers and help ease thetransition back to normal life. "Companies and organizations arechoosing to implement phased approaches to reopening offices andsimilar environments because it is widely recommended by guidanceauthorities such as CDC as a key strategy for achieving socialdistancing," says Ellzey. "Phasing also eases crowding in publictransportation, helps alleviate the formation of queues nearelevators, and creates a more comfortable experience for employeesinside the workplace. Employers recognize that governmental ordersand public health guidance is evolving as more is learned aboutCOVID-19."

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Initially, businesses will take rigorous steps to ensure safety,including installing signage, reconfiguring layouts and requiringhealth screenings. However, these restrictions will evolve as thepublic health crisis improves. "As work environments begin toreopen, these companies and organizations will adjust theirworkplace configurations and practices based on expert guidance aswell as their own lessons learned," says Ellzey. "Examples mightinclude under what circumstances face coverings are to be worn inthe office, the best way to conduct daily health screenings, or theuse of emerging Track and Trace technologies to help break thechains of transmission."

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In implementing a phased re-opening, businesses should partnerwith internal leadership and human resources to organize how andwho will return in each phase. "Decisions on who to bring backfirst and how to organize the return should be made incollaboration with a company's lines of business," says Ellzey."Many of our clients are looking carefully at work functions todelineate tasks that can be performed at home, versus whatfunctions require collaboration and teaming." Ellzey adds thatbusiness leaders should also consider how different groups ofemployees fit into this plan. "Other considerations might includespecial considerations for vulnerable employees, which groups anddepartments need in-person collaboration, if teams should bedivided in their work from home days in order to mitigate risk(should a spike in cases reoccur), or how to enable innovativethinking to maintain a competitive advantage corporately."

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.