As reported on Strategy:
Offices in Boston were allowed to open at 25% capacity on Monday, but many remained virtually empty.
Many companies are opting to remain remote until at least September or next year.
Reopening safely requires measures like personal protective equipment for employees and quick office redesigns.
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While offices in Boston were allowed to open at 25% capacity on Monday, many nonessential workers did not show up.
Instead, companies may be opting to keep workforces remote until September — or even 2021, Jon Chesto and Anissa Gardizy reported for The Boston Globe.
Mike Russell, an assistant property manager for 50 Milk St., a downtown office building, told The Globe that building management had prepared for the first day of reopening. He was personally ready to ensure that returning workers were properly social distancing.
But "there was no one there," he said.
That could be because reopening offices safely requires fairly extensive measures, from deep cleaning and reconfiguring office traffic patterns to ordering personal protective equipment for employees.
Miten Marvania, the chief operating officer for the IT and cybersecurity firm Agio, previously told Business Insider that companies needed to treat a return to the office as though they were opening a new location.
When workers do return, they should expect their offices to look very differently — think one-way traffic in hallways, sneeze guards, and spaced-out work areas.
"A return to the 2019 normal isn’t going to be possible for organizations," John Beattie, a principal consultant and disaster-recovery expert, previously told Business Insider.
Even as offices reopen, remote work should always be the first option if possible. Companies like Square and Twitter have told employees that they can work from home permanently; in Boston, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — which used to have 450 employees coming into its headquarters every workday — will be working remotely until at least through Labor Day.
According to Business Insider’s Alex Nicoll, seven experts see workers returning to the office in two parts: one pre-vaccine, where only necessary workers return slowly, and one post-vaccine, where returning is more permanent. And even that final return to work will likely look different than the office pre-pandemic.
In the short term, employees may find offices requiring temperature checks, face masks, and gloves. Open-floor workspaces may have desks screened off, and communal areas could be made into private offices.
Even after a vaccine is found, the office likely won’t revert to how it functioned pre-pandemic.
Keith Perske, the executive managing director of workplace innovation at Colliers, told Nicoll that when it comes to the office, "we’ve accelerated ourselves five years into the future, or maybe more."
Offices instead may become more of a hub to gather in than a daily workspace.
Regardless, remote work — and both the benefits and the challenges it offers employees — will be here to stay.
SEE ALSO: THE RACE TO REOPEN: A comprehensive guide for offices to safely and efficiently bring back workers
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