How do companies decide who should return to offices first? It’s tricky

Firms rely on surveys, apps and other technologies to make staffing decisions

National /
Sep.September 21, 2020 01:02 PM
Companies are relying on surveys and other data points to determine who will come back to offices first. (iStock)

Companies are relying on surveys and other data points to determine who will come back to offices first. (iStock)

Companies are starting to bring employees back to offices after months of working from home, but deciding who should come back first is tricky — so firms are relying on surveys, apps and other tech to guide staffing decisions.

International Business Machines, for instance, gave precedence to scientists working in quantum computer labs who may have had trouble working from home, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Automatic Data Processing, a payroll processor, is using a dashboard that informs the company of its employees’ willingness to come back. And real estate startup SquareFoot prioritized brokers after an internal survey showed they needed to be in the office more than other workers.

It’s a delicate balance: Companies don’t want to force employees back to offices if they’re not ready or have Covid-related anxiety. At the same time, some workers who aren’t deemed “essential” enough to be in offices may feel slighted, said SquareFoot President Michael Colacino.

Landlords have been eager to repopulate offices, but even with all precautions, bringing people back comes with risks. JPMorgan Chase had one employee tested positive and sent a group of employees home, a person close to the bank told the Journal.

By using local health data and other information, IBM developed tools that help managers decide whether they can safely reopen their sites. An app, for example, assigns workers staggered arrival times, pointing them to desks or conference rooms that have been recently cleaned. These tools are used both internally and by clients. [WSJ] — Akiko Matsuda


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