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5 Lessons from Companies That Have Started Office Re-Entry

This week, we hosted a conversation about office re-entry and the obstacles and opportunities companies have faced when bringing employees back into the office – hearing from companies that have began re-entry efforts.  

The conversation was moderated by LaSalle Network CEO, Tom Gimbel, and the panelists included Margaret Smith, Vice President and Head of Talent at Compass, Kelley Mudgett, Vice President, Human Resources, North America at Culligan International, and Amy Bastuga, Chief People Officer at Radio Flyer. We’re recapping the event with pertinent Q&As discussed; however, if you want to hear the entire conversation, click here. **Please note responses have been edited for clarity. 

To register for the second installment of our Office Re-Entry virtual series on July 15, click here 

Company spotlights and status on re-entry:


Compass is changing the residential real estate industry with its cutting-edge technology, transforming how people buy and sell homes with 300+ regional offices in the U.S., 23,000+ agents in the field, and 800+ corporate employees. Over the past year, Compass doubled its employee headcount as it experienced explosive growth during the pandemic. Currently, about 1,800 employees are back working in the regional offices with plans to bring employees back to headquarters in July.  


Culligan International employs 7,500+ employees globally and has acquired nearly 90 companies in the past 4.5 years. As an essential business, Culligan had a part of its workforce continue working on-site throughout the pandemic and brought the remainder of employees back full-time in June of 2020. Today, Culligan’s approach has evolved, and they are piloting a new workplace flexibility program. 


Radio Flyer, a privately held, American toy company best known for their iconic red wagon, employs around 115 people, including warehouse and distribution staff, as well as corporate employees across the U.S. Radio Flyer kept its warehouse open and producing product during the pandemic and have recently begun opening offices to corporate employees. Radio Flyer will bring back nearly 80 full-time staff and interns in June to launch its internship program in advance of bringing back all employees in September. 



How were decisions regarding re-entry made?  

Bastuga, Radio Flyer – We began by surveying our employees regularly throughout the course of the last year regarding their concerns about COVID-19 safety in general. This helped influence our decision on timing and how to communicate our re-entry plans with employees. Our Human Resources department presented proposals to our senior leadership team regarding office re-entry, and we made planning decisions collaboratively. 


What is the current schedule for your employees to be in office? 

Smith, Compass – Our regional offices are back at full capacity, full time, in order to support our agents and customers. Employees will be brought back to headquarters in July via a hybrid model. Mondays and Fridays will be flexible for remote work and Tuesday through Thursday will be in-office for collaboration days. We are considering this as a pilot, with a ‘flexibility-first’ model. Our aim is to accommodate employees based on their need as much as possible and as their role allows. 


How have you handled staff anxieties regarding return-to-office? 

Mudgett, Culligan International – Toward the beginning of our re-entry last June, anxiety was high. There was a lot of uncertainty at first, but as employees saw the safety procedures in place, they became more comfortable. We also prioritized communication, explaining why, as an essential business, we were returning to the office while many other companies were not. We had to ensure our customers and how we serve them was top-of-mind, while still ensuring the safety of our people.  

Anxiety since last June has gone down significantly, but it is important to acknowledge the general mental wellbeing of the workforce has still taken a hit and may take time to recover. We are trying to support mental health with several wellness initiatives, such as our ‘Mindful Minute’ program where we provide quick mental health tips and practices to destress. 


How will you prepare and equip employees for hybrid work? 

Bastuga, Radio Flyer – As a pilot, we are bringing employees back together 3 days a week with the intention of collaborating fully on-site, rather than with groups on-site and individuals over Zoom. While we were impressed with the level of collaboration possible during remote work, there is still a level missing that we are hoping to improve upon by having employees back together. 

At the start of the pandemic, employees were able to borrow needed technology from the office and we provided a stipend for them to use on setting up an efficient workspace. As we transition back into the office, any technology or items borrowed from the office will need to be returned. We will always have a proper technology set-up for all employees in the office; however, for new employees joining, we are not providing stipends for at-home setups. 


With new guidance from the CDC regarding those who are vaccinated not having to wear masks, has anything changed or will it change for your organization? What about other social distancing measures? 

Smith, Compass – As of now, we have not adjusted our mask policy for the employees in-office. As for other social distancing measures, we have emphasized the importance of employees reading cues and being respectful of one another's space without judgement. While some vaccinated employees may be comfortable with a handshake or hug, others are not, and we have communicated to employees to be aware of that. With the upcoming re-entry of our corporate offices, maintaining a social distancing policy is a conflict we foresee arising, as the culture is very familial, and we are planning to address ‘no touch policies’ and social distancing as appropriate at that time. 

Mudgett, Culligan International – We are in the process of adjusting our mask policy for those who are fully vaccinated to not be required to wear them while in the office. For field employees in customer homes, masking will be up to the customer’s comfort and discretion. Currently at our plants, masking remains required, even for those vaccinated, until our workforce reaches a certain percentage of vaccination.  


This event was the first of an ongoing series of discussions regarding office re-entry trends and policies. While we recapped a few of the top questions asked, many more were discussed live in the event. To download a recording of the virtual event, click here.  

To register for the second installment of our Office Re-Entry virtual series on July 15, click here 


Other stories you may be interested in:

FAQs: Navigating a Successful Office Re-Entry

To Mandate the Vaccine or Not? Answers to 4 Pressing Questions