How (and When) Some Tennessee Businesses Plan to Bring Employees Back to the Office

Employee reticence, consistent enforcement of rules and maintaining social distancing––these are among the biggest challenges facing DPM clients as they move toward bringing employees back to work in facilities throughout Tennessee. 

Those are some of the results of an unscientific and informal survey we conducted in the last month. Our clients run the gamut from small religious institutions to large corporate companies, primarily in Nashville and Knoxville. Some are more office-oriented, while others are forward-facing public companies or manufacturers. 

But one thing is consistent across the board––nearly all of them have made adjustments to the way they have worked in the last year in response to COVID-19:

  • Seven percent became fully remote in their organizations. 
  • Twenty-eight percent offered employees the choice (when applicable) to work either from home or the office. 
  • More than a third reduced the number of employees at their facilities, with some employees only working from home. 
  • Twenty-one percent, those that because of the nature of their business couldn’t work remotely, remained on-site, but with extra precautions such as masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings of employees. 

Tennessee Companies Explore Timelines for Reopening Facilities

Today, though, they are at least beginning to look at returning to their offices on a full-time basis and bringing customers and vendors back in, too.  

When, though? That answer is all over the board.

For those that aren’t already back in their offices, most of our clients who responded to the survey have plans to bring employees back by the fall. Others are waiting on vaccination schedules or still considering their return timeline. And one client has decided to move to a hybrid work environment moving forward.

For many, this means a return primarily for their office workers, many of whom have been able to work from home for the year. And for other clients, they have been maintaining some of their on-site staffing throughout 2020 and 2021 because their business’ and industries were essential or called for in-person work. 

Growing trend is to return to offices

Our clients aren’t alone. According to an article from The Tennessean, most Nashville-area businesses expect to be back in person in the next few months. 

In all, more than 60 percent of employees worked some sort of flexible hybrid of in-person and remote schedule because of COVID-19 in the last year. (Which isn’t news to anyone reading this between video meetings.) 

For many businesses, bringing everyone back to the office will be just as complicated and arduous as sending everyone home was in 2020. We have one client who has only about 85 people in person per day out of more than 1,200 who used to be together. So pulling everyone together again, introducing any new employees, and implementing new protocols and procedures won’t be an easy task. Everyone has been used to a different schedule, way of working, and, perhaps, a different wardrobe requirement. 

How Companies are Preparing Facilities for Employees’ Return

So, what are businesses doing to make their facilities safe and accessible? 

First, many of our clients responded that they are working with what they have, to both keep costs under control and keep their teams safe. 

One of the most common (and cost effective) changes our clients are making is rearranging how offices are set up. More than a third of our survey respondents have reworked their offices and furniture to promote social distancing. Many are also restricting use of conference rooms and other group-gathering areas.

More than two-thirds of clients who responded to our survey have or are planning extra cleaning in anticipation of welcoming employees back to their spaces. If you haven’t already done so while your facilities are less occupied, now is a great time to schedule a top-to-bottom deep cleaning. Here at DPM we are ready to work with you to make sure your facilities are sanitized and cleaned, ready for your teams’ return.

Facility Changes in Response to COVID-19

Many of our clients have also made changes to their physical plants to mitigate COVID-19: 

  • More than a third of our survey respondents have made physical changes to their facilities, including installing walls, dividers or physical barriers. 
  • About 15 percent have made changes to their ventilation, ductwork and airflow and added or improved their outdoor space for working or meeting.
  • More than half have added hygiene stations and signage promoting mask wearing and social distancing. 

Welcoming a return to normalcy at the office

Making the workplace “normal” again won’t be easy, but it will be a welcome return for most employees. A chance to work with people again, talk with others about projects face-to-face, and step away from home for parts of the week are something many look forward to being able to do in the near future. 

At DPM, we’re ready to bring our teams back to the fold and to help you and your crews as your work to get your facilities ready and to maintain them when your teams are back in house. 

If you are anywhere in Nashville, Knoxville or the surrounding areas, let us know how we can help you transition your teams and your facilities back to normal. We’d love to help.