Office Re-Entry Questions, Answered

LaSalle Network CEO, Tom Gimbel, was joined by Amy Toppen, Head of People at Foxtrot, Carmen Smith, Chief People Officer at Coyote Logistics, and Marilena Acevedo, VP of Human Resources at PetroChoice, for a 1-hour, virtual event on office re-entry plans and considerations.  

Some of the many pressing topics covered, included: 

  • Mask and vaccine mandates 
  • Legal considerations for remote-work options  
  • Managing hybrid schedules  
  • Office cleaning and managing in-office COVID-19 outbreaks  

Panelists answered questions from attendees on how they managed their re-entry efforts, and we’re sharing just a sampling of the Q&A below. For the full conversation, download the event recording here: https://bit.ly/3uOUySX    

 

What are you doing to encourage people to get vaccinated?  

Carmen Smith, Chief People Officer at Coyote Logistics:

We encourage employees to get the vaccinate in all global communications surrounding COVID-19.  We also hosted onsite vaccinations in several of our hub offices. 

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Additional LaSalle Network Tips: 

If opting not to mandate the vaccine, but wanting to encourage employees to get it, some companies have created various incentive programs. A few examples include:  

  • American Airlines offers an extra vacation day and $50  
  • Kroger offers its employees a one-time payment of $100 if they show proof of their vaccination. If employees decline the vaccine due to religious or health reasons, they can take a health and safety course provided by Kroger and receive the payment.  
  • Target teamed up with Lyft to reimburse employees for rides to and from vaccine appointments and is offering employees up to four hours of pay for work time missed 

 

How will your employee engagement strategies change as a result of the “new normal,” and what will stay the same? 

Amy Toppen, Head of People at Foxtrot: 

Even prior to the pandemic, establishing engagement strategies was always rooted in listening, learning, and pivoting, as the needs and wants of our employees have always been quite fluid. Engagement strategies will most definitely shift as a result of the “new normal,” with a heavy focus on health + wellness (benefits and perks), connectedness (communication and transparency), and flexibility in the integration of work and life. Even so, that’s simply a reprioritization, where the many other aspects of engagement will remain in play.    

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Additional LaSalle Network Tips: 

Managers should view re-entry as an opportunity to build a stronger team dynamic and intentionally create an inclusive and supportive environment that reengages employees and maximizes the team’s strengths. 

Create a vision for how the team would ideally interact and collaborate, as well as produce independently. Identify areas within the team dynamic that can be improved and create action items for how to cultivate those qualities or skills within the group. For instance, if the team needs to be more creative, consider who on the team can help lead brainstorming sessions, how to communicate issues to the teams to encourage innovation, and how to pair employees up to collaborate most efficiently.  

Consider hosting safe, social distanced team activities for those comfortable with attending. Consider putting together groups of employees who may not know each other well for smaller group events. Social connection among employees can help engage employees and reduce turnover. 

 

What, if any, exceptions are you allowing to your Company’s return-to-office policy? 

Carmen Smith, Chief People Officer at Coyote Logistics: 

We allow employees to request an accommodation if they are not able to return to the office based on their own medical condition, the medical condition of a family member residing in their home or under their care, or for documented childcare situations affected by COVID-19.  The accommodation requests are an interactive process, and we work with them on unique situations that fall into these categories. 

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Additional LaSalle Network Tips: 

Some employees may have health complications or live with someone with health complications and be uncomfortable returning to the office. Depending on the employee’s role and if they are able to perform their job well from home, some employers are accommodating their request for increased flexibility. This is up to the discretion of the business, depending on business need, employee responsibilities, and company policies.  

 

What types of safety protocols have you instituted in your offices? (i.e. social distancing, limiting people in the lunchroom, disposable cups, usage of coffee makers, etc.) 

Marilena Acevedo, VP of Human Resources at PetroChoice:  

We are limiting people in the lunchrooms and conference rooms, purchased air purifiers for the conference rooms, and have reconfigured our cubicles and lunchroom seating. We’ve also provided yellow bracelets for all employees to wear if they desire social distancing or masking while communicating with others. Our mask policy is optional for those who are fully vaccinated, following the CDC guidelines, and a few vaccinated employees are continuing to wear their masks. We’ve also given all employees lunch boxes/cooler bags to limit the use of refrigerators, and all meals provided by the company are boxed. 

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Additional LaSalle Network Tips: 

Employees likely will have a wide array of viewpoints and comfortability levels when it comes to COVID-19 safety procedures. As an example, some employees may be uncomfortable wearing a mask all day while others may have discomfort if unvaccinated and vaccinated employees are together within the office.  

While there may not be a way to make every employee feel completely comfortable, it will be helpful to explain what procedures are in place regarding employee safety, including continued contact tracing, mask policies and more. If bringing both unvaccinated and vaccinated employees back into the office, consider designating certain areas of the office for unvaccinated people to remove masks in order to eat, or even having separate work areas.  

Establish a way employees can connect with Human Resources to express concerns or health issues and receive proper accommodation, as necessary. 

 

What are your thoughts on offering flexibility and leaving the choice in the hands of the employees on how they want to work (virtual, in office, or hybrid)? What are the dangers or perks of this? 

Amy Toppen, Head of People at Foxtrot: 

While I’m not sure there’s any danger to offering the option of choice to your employees on how they want to work, it’s very important the amount of flexibility matches up to your culture, your core values, and is in full support of productivity and performance for your business.    

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Additional LaSalle Network Tips: 

Many businesses are choosing to establish specific days for employees to be on-site, versus allowing employees to choose, which is highly recommended to help avoid ostracizing employees based on when they choose to come in, creating definitive cliques within the office, and to avoid decreasing diversity within the office. In LaSalle Network’s June 2021 survey regarding office re-entry, 77% planned on a hybrid workforce. 87% of companies that plan to offer individuals the ability to work remotely part-time stated they foresee employees working in-office 2 or 3 days a week. 

While every business has a different culture and need, dictating when employees are required to be together for in-office collaboration days has proven for some to be an important factor in their team’s success. For many companies, re-entry considerations include: what is best for employee productivity, supporting the company culture, and ensuring they are prepared with proper office space and/or technology for those who need it. 

 

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Download LaSalle Network’s Office Re-Entry Index: Volume II, which includes comparison data between two surveys from March and June of 2021 on re-entry trends and challenges. The report includes resources and suggestions for communicating with staff, legal considerations for mask and vaccination policies, information on timelines and strategies for office re-entry, considerations for a hybrid workforce, and more. To download click here: https://bit.ly/2UK2XuG.

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