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The No-Nonsense FAQ For Reopening Your Office

When the time comes to welcome your team back to the office, things will be different. We've compiled answers to the most common questions about safely re-opening your office.


We've compiled answers to the most common questions our clients ask about reopening their offices when the time is right. Check out the full No-Nonsense Guide to Reopening Your Office here.

When the time comes to welcome your team back to the office, things will be different. Whether you're a team of five or five hundred, every organization will need to revisit basic assumptions about personal space, safety and collaboration.

You may have read one of the many “Back to Work” guides released over the past few weeks. At a high level, these guides come to the same three conclusions about the office:

  • Reconfigure your office to create six feet between employees
  • Install physical barriers between workstations; and
  • Adapt scheduling to have employees come to work on alternating days.

This is sound advice—backed by research, CDC guidance and industry best practices— but many of our clients have questions about how to translate this feedback into tangible action without breaking the bank.

Do you have to purchase brand new cubicles or put up walls to create private offices? How can you safeguard the health and productivity of your team on a budget? Read on for answers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Thought leadership on getting back to work is filled with big (and great) ideas, but can be short on workable guidelines. We’re here to simplify those ideas into practical next steps.
Below are some questions we’ve heard from our clients over the past few weeks, answered with our best insights to approaching and solving them in an effective way.

Do we really need to make changes to the office?

Yes. Some changes to the office are table stakes for the return to work. We'll explain what those are below. Not doing anything risks creating an unsafe work environment, alienating your employees and creates liability. But there are simple and effective solutions at your disposal!

Do we need to replace all of our furniture?

No. But you'll probably need to change your layout. Privacy panels and modular partitions will be essential in most offices. Where possible, desks will be spread out and staggered to accommodate social distancing. We've included two examples below. Before scrapping your current furniture, have a space planner redesign your current layout.*

* We'll do this for free at Branch, no obligation.

How do we create safe, personal spaces in an open office?

Returning employees will need sanctuary spaces, especially in open-office layouts. The quickest and most affordable way to do this is by installing privacy panels and modular partitions between each employee’s desk, adding separation to help keep workers settle in with ease.

You can also implement an alternate work schedule (see below). Ultimately, by reducing the density of workers, each individual worker will have more space to themselves. These small changes go a long way in creating personal space within an otherwise open office.

Should we implement an alternate work schedule?

With an alternate work schedule, staff come in on alternating days to keep density low. They're a compelling way to gradually ease your workforce back into office life, but mean months of work from home conditions that may be less than adequate. Our advice: if you’re going to implement an alternate work schedule, consider subsidizing ergonomic furniture for employees at home. After a couple months of hunching over the kitchen table, their backs—and productivity levels—will thank you.

How do I maintain company culture if half my team is working remote?

Chances are, you've already implemented a lot of new, important measures in your organization for staying connected while everyone works from home. These might include: more frequent all-hands meetings and check-ins across teams, more recurrent 1:1's between employees and their managers, weekly written reports on each teams' progress, substituting phone calls with video meetings, etc.

We suggest maintaining these strategies throughout the transition back to work, starting from when your first employees start going back into the office, to keep your culture strong.

What about conference rooms? Can they still be used?

Meeting rooms are the most densely packed part of the office. But COVID-19 will not be the end of in-person meetings. Instead, going forward, meetings will be smaller and likely more brief. We suggest most companies reduce the number of seats in their meeting rooms by 50-75%, ensuring that there are six feet between each chair around the table. Additionally, meeting room surfaces should be disinfected between use, and air purified where possible.

Furthermore, we recommend refraining from common "conferencing customs," at least for the first few months of getting back to work, such as shaking hands when meeting or saying goodbye, or sharing pens and keyboards with one another. As a general rule of thumb: Use only what's yours.

Is co-working still safe?

The short answer: probably, so long as you’re renting from a high quality workspace operator. Co-working business models are built upon cultivating a high density of workers in a certain space. Well-prepared operators will reduce desk density, add physical barriers, increase cleaning frequency, supplement air purification systems, limit activity in shared common spaces (kitchens, lounge areas) and perhaps even introduce daily temperature checks.

Be sure to check with your own operator that they are meeting these requirements before your team re-enters shared space.

What other steps can I take to help our team feel safe?

Communicate constantly, supply protective equipment like gloves and masks, and ensure the office is disinfected on a daily basis. Be supportive and understanding of everyone's circumstances. Some workers may take re-entering more seriously than others; some may be psychologically impacted from the extended (and perhaps continued) periods of remote work. Encourage your team to talk about their reactions and feelings to the circumstances at hand. And remember: Show your staff that you take their health seriously.

Get The Guide

Re-entering the office doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but it's critical to have a plan and do things right. Employees will be returning with heightened health and safety standards, and it is incumbent on organizations to create a workplace environment that they will feel comfortable in.
For a comprehensive (but simple) set of best practices and next steps to safely reopen your office, check out our No-Nonesense Guide to Reopening Your Office. 

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