With some states relaxing their shelter in place orders and coronavirus testing coverage beginning expansion, some of the top global companies have begun the process of transitioning their employees back to on-site work. Like any change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far, this shift from home to the office will surely happen in phases.
Some industries with a backlog of demand are facing pressure to reopen earlier than others. Local dentist offices, barbershops, and salons are feeling this pressure from their community members who are ready for a return to normal. For other industries, such as retail and hospitality, there is less urgency to reopen as long as the e-commerce wings of these companies are still viable. So, how do the leaders of these organizations choose when and how to return to work?
Here are the top companies that have created return to work policies, while prioritizing their employees' health along the way.
A leader in their industry and a leader in creating a safe return to work plan, Ford has created a 64-page Return to Work Manufacturing Playbook that was developed using guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and a host of other human service groups. This playbook is extensive and exhaustive, two qualities that you want from your company's return to work policy.
Some key features of the plan are:
In a different, yet just as effective policy, both Google and Facebook have notified all their employees to expect to continue working from home for the remainder of the year. In addition, they'll be staggering a reopening of their offices starting in July for those who need it.
Prolonging work from home policies is not just a safety measure, but also a wise business decision for organizations whose employees are working from their home offices.
It's not surprising that tech companies are extending their work from home policies because their IT systems and extensive software network remove the need for daily, in-person interaction.
Twitter has been a big proponent of remote work and working from home, and its employees have been given permission to work from home forever, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted. The company is working to ensure, "internal meetings, all hands, and other important tasks are optimized for remote participation".
Twitter said of its work from home plan:
"While this is a big change for us, we have already been moving towards a more distributed workforce that's increasingly remote. We're a global service and we're committed to enabling anyone, anywhere to work at Twitter."
Before shelter in place policies came into effect in March, 2% of Zillow's employees worked remotely. The online real estate firm announced at the end of April that all of their employees could telecommute until 2021.
The transition to remote work was not easy for every organization, but Zillow's Chief People Officer, Dan Spaulding, was pleasantly surprised. Spaulding said in an interview, "Our bias against working from home has completely exploded," and the company is "not seeing any discernible drop in productivity."
One factor behind Zillow's decision to extend its remote work policy is its open floor plan office. Like so many other modern companies that adopted the open floor plan to encourage collaboration in their office, Zillow is now facing reconfiguring its office to lower the risk of contagion between coworkers. But Spaulding is not thrilled by this possibility, "If we're going back to the 1980s office for health reasons (where everyone had an office with a door) I don't know how many employees are interested in that," Mr. Spaulding said.
"Today we let our team know they have flexibility to work from home (or anywhere) through the end of 2020. My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months. I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work ... and home. Stay safe."— Rich Barton (@Rich_Barton) April 25, 2020
At this time, 95% of Discover's workforce is working remotely. Faced with preparing over 17 thousand employees to return to work at seven different campuses, Discover is following the lead set by the American Enterprise Institute in the report, National Coronavirus Response: A Roadmap to Reopening.
Beginning with the return of their customer service workers, Discover looks forward to returning to work with lower-occupancy formations while keeping their team members that typically work closely with one another at home and collaborating remotely. Some features of the National Coronavirus Response include not re-opening or returning to work until:
Due to the complicated nature of COVID-19, companies of all sizes, across industries must navigate their own state and local reopening guidelines while adhering to the ever-changing federal regulations. Company leaders are in the difficult position of returning to work while maintaining the safety of their employees. Regardless of when your business reopens, working from home doesn't mean a loss of productivity.
For the best work from home practices, check out this comprehensive guide to remote work.