How Facilities Can Reassure Employees It’s Safe to Return to the Office

Survey sheds light on emotional aspect of returning to the office during COVID-19 pandemic


As COVID-19 stretches into its 10th month in the United States, some businesses have forged ahead with bringing employees back to the office while many continue to debate if and when to do so. For those yet to reopen, the debate rightly centers first and foremost on how best to protect employee health and safety. But when employees do return to work, their mental well-being deserves equal consideration.

While some employees are eager to return to the office, others are nervous, and still others are uncertain how to feel. A recent GP PRO consumer survey found that although 19% of respondents are excited to return to the workplace, 43% are concerned and 30% are hesitant.

Jessica D., who is currently working remotely, said, “I’m not back in the office yet, and I’m nervous to return. I don’t believe I’ll be safe if I return.”

Shelly R., another remote worker, said she’s concerned about how her coworkers will behave. “I don’t think it will be very long at all before it becomes sloppy,” she explained.

In direct conversations with office employees, cleaning experts found that many shared Shelly R.’s fears that their co-workers will stop following best practices. But in a recent survey, GP PRO found that although people may be experiencing COVID fatigue, they are still mindful and diligent in their adherence to the guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and others.

The survey found:

  • 81% of survey respondents said they nearly always wear a mask in public
  • 37% said they wear a mask both indoors and out
  • 30% said their frequency of hand washing has increased in the last 30 days
  • 26% said their use of hand sanitizer has increased in the last 30 days.

Those office employee conversations also showed that, like Jessica D., workers are concerned about their facility taking adequate steps to ensure a hygienic environment, especially in the restroom. A recent GP PRO survey about restroom use found:

  • 28% of respondents indicated they are somewhat or very uncomfortable using their workplace restroom
  • 48% said seeing the actual cleaning process would increase their confidence in restroom cleaning practices
  • 43% said seeing a cleaning checklist would increase their confidence
  • 42% said knowing the cleaning processes and protocols also would help them feel more confident.

“Our findings collectively paint a picture of a concerned consumer who is following appropriate best practices as it relates to protecting themselves and those around them from the coronavirus and whose fears can be put at ease through a combination of communication, transparency, and empathy,” said Michelle Auda, senior director of Insights with GP PRO. “Each of us is experiencing and handling the ebbs and flows of this pandemic in our own unique way. There are simple steps we can all take to make things a little easier on everyone.”

Five best practices facility management and cleaning professionals can follow to ease worker fears about returning to the office include:

  1. Install visible signage that identifies general cleaning protocols, processes, and practices. Be sure to include information on when an area was last cleaned.
  2. Ensure restrooms don’t run out of soap, toilet paper, and paper towels and consider communicating supply levels outside the restroom.
  3. Clean during daytime hours so building occupants can see hygiene practices firsthand.
  4. Pursue cleaning and hygiene certifications and post certificates where building occupants will see them.
  5. Demonstrate empathy when encountering a building occupant who expresses concern about the level of clean.
Posted On November 11, 2020
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