12 questions to ask before returning to the office, post-quarantine

Sam, one of the beloved office dogs at Trinity Partners in Columbia
Sam, one of the beloved office dogs at Trinity Partners in Columbia | photo via Trinity Partners COLA

What will offices look like post-COVID? And how can local companies prepare for getting back to work? With 8+ weeks spent working from home, what new adjustments could change on-site work for good?

Here are some questions local companies should ask themselves as they prepare for readjusting to office life, provided by the commercial real estate experts at Trinity Partners Columbia (who know a thing or two about well-functioning office spaces).

  1. Who really needs to be in the office? Prioritize in-office needs vs. making blanket requirements.
  2. How can you create physical distance for your employees? Establish your office’s capacity for employees to safely return to work and still practice social distancing. Assess your office space and current setup to determine safe zones + distances.
  3. Should you stagger work shifts? Consider A/B days or work shifts to space out when employees are coming and going. 
  4. Do you need to develop or adjust any communication protocols? Will former touchpoints that happened in-person migrate to happening solely online? 
  5. What’s your mask policy? Consider enforcing the use of masks in common areas like break rooms, at the copiers, or in the mail room.
  6. Can you create more space in your seating areas? Can you tape off “safe” seating spots around conference room tables? Assess your current situation and adjust.
  7. How can you safely handle deliveries? Work with vendors to understand their policies and make sure they understand yours. 
  8. Do you fully understand your building’s cleaning and maintenance protocols during COVID-19? If not, connect with your property management to review their safety measures.
  9. Do you need to provide additional personal protective equipment to employees?
  10. Do you have enough hand sanitizer? Consider placing hand sanitizer on all desks and in common areas, and have disinfectant spray + paper towels available.
  11. What internal signage do you need to guide employees through the new protocols? 
  12. How will all this affect your future office requirements? Will you need more, less, or different space? Think about planning for the future during this new normal. 

Macon Lovelace, SIOR, Partner and Broker at Trinity Partners, says it’s important for businesses to do what’s right for them, their employees, and clients during this time. Team Trinity predicts we’ll see a shift in how offices are set up, with companies rethinking open-office configurations, perhaps returning to more private office setups – especially for larger operations, like call centers, customer service centers, and dense, cube-heavy spaces with more than six employees per 1,000 sq ft. of space. 

Ashley Owens, Senior Property Manager at Trinity Partners, encourages companies to maintain transparency about their environment, and encourages employees to reach out to their management team to ask questions or better understand the situation at their office.