During conversations with buyer organizations, program managers have expressed mixed feelings about what the new normal will be for office work and the utilization of office space going forward. The existing concerns around the continued spread of Covid-19 even as governments begin to lift restrictions are prompting organizations to consider the implications for the workforce in general — these include elevator and stairway traffic management as well as monitoring office and conference room use to maintain proper physical distancing. They can also include mask usage, establishing a thorough cleaning schedule and making cleaning suppliers accessible.
But then there’s the contingent workforce, for whom there are additional considerations. Here are some of the things buyers report considering:
Expanding the remote workforce. Some are considering requiring contingent workers to work from home when possible. While some are already doing this, many have cut their contingent workforces in the interim. Wanting to get back to business, they are coordinating with their staffing providers and their own facilities and security departments to ensure their contingent workers have the proper tools and permissions in place to work from home, from laptops to internet to network access.
Tested at work. But what of those workers whose jobs cannot be performed from home? As with your workforce at large, the safety of your contingent workers must be a priority. Some companies are planning that those contingents who enter the premises may be subject to screenings similar to their employees. Expect office policies to shift toward social distancing such as added space between desks and cafeterias that provide food but no seating. Facility cleaning will be enhanced and some employers will provide masks, gloves and other protective gear. Other buyers report planning daily temperature checks before workers enter the premises, while others are also considering formal testing once tests become more readily available. The EEOC has given the green light to mandating such tests as long as the testing is reliable and uniformly applied.
Proximity. Physical distancing may well remain a concern until a vaccine is available, and can be difficult to maintain in a fast-paced or crowded office or building. Considerations for remote work continue to win the day, as remote workers can isolate and contribute in a socially distanced way. It comes down to asking, when do workers really need to be in the office? Remote working for employees has become commonplace already, but the same degree of acceptance does not exist for contingent workers.
As a result, a few buyers report they are looking at technology that will alert an individual if they come within six feet of another person. Some of these technologies enable the buyer to actually run reports on close proximity and address frequent offenders of not following social distancing requirements.
Real estate. Some buyer organizations are talking about strategic decisions to revisit real estate utilization. Many will likely be reducing their real estate usage — which could translate to a significant cost savings for their organization — as the remote contingent workforce slowly gains acceptance.
As buyer organizations take into consideration different scenarios to support health and safety for all workers before delving into policy, one thing is certain: This pandemic could be the leading driver to change the way we work, co-mingle and ultimately deliver results to support organizational business goals and objectives.