CBRE: Most employers taking phased, cautious approach to reopening

18 May 2020 2 min. read
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Most companies plan to take a gradual, cautious approach to reopening, according to a recent report from real estate services and investment firm CBRE. Company strategies include social distancing, face coverings, restriction of visitors, and a phased return of employees – with many instituting guidelines stricter than local government requirements.

CBRE surveyed 203 company operations in its global workplace solutions business, which manages client facilities spanning 4.2 billion square feet and more than 38 million workers. The analysis includes data up to May 4.

“Our analysis of our clients’ return-to-work strategies shows that virtually all are engaged in detailed planning to ensure a careful and reasoned approach,” said Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of consulting and global lead for CBRE’s Covid-19 response for occupier clients. “Most of these companies have established their own criteria for when to return to the workplace beyond local and state government requirements.”

Only 20% of companies intend to reopen as soon as government restrictions lift, while a larger 42% will reopen after their own internal standards are met.

CBRE: Most employers taking phased, cautious approach to reopening

Seventy-two percent of companies will reopen in a phased manner, with defined groups of employees admitted over weeks or months. Just over half of companies expect to give employees the option to work from home for the foreseeable future, though this varies widely by industry sector (e.g. software vs manufacturing).

Approximately half are implementing touchless technologies, while most are following social distancing standards. Forty-five percent will follow social distancing guidelines from local/health authorities, while another 34% will set standards that may exceed local guidance (typically six feet of separation).

Most companies will reform their spaces via numerous means, including new signage (82%), outlined distancing zones with decals and reminders (78%), and reconfigured furniture layouts (61%).

Most companies (59%) will also provide face coverings for their employees. Only 28% will require masks at all times on company property, while 42% will do so only if mandated by local authorities.

Visitors will be a no-go for many firms, with only 21% planning to allow visitors to the workplace in the early phases of reopening, according to the CBRE study.

In terms of health screening, only 13% will conduct employee screenings (such as temperature checks) on site at every facility. A larger 45% will require off-site employee self-screening for symptoms before they arrive at the workplace.

“With so many essential workers already performing their jobs at commercial properties, there is much that the industry is learning and adapting,” Ellzey said. “At the same time, companies must continually monitor local health conditions as they undertake further reopening efforts. Across the board, we see evidence that companies are taking a thoughtful, measured approach to reopening their work environments in a safe and methodical manner.”