Dallas Region Businesses Offer Insights on Responsible Return to the Workplace

Patricia Blasquez, Director, Economic Development

As Texas continues phased reopening, many businesses are faced with the challenge of safely resuming operations in the physical workspace. The Dallas Regional Chamber hosted five sessions on a responsible return to the workplace, part of our Future of Work and Business programming. Each session focused on a specific facility type and operations – from essential businesses that never closed: construction, manufacturing, and distribution; to high-touch service industries: hospitality, retail, and transportation; as well as office environments.

Speakers included infectious disease experts, state emergency response leaders, business leaders, attorneys, and HR executives. Below are key learnings:

Communicate Often and Foster a Culture of Compliance

During crises and periods of rapid transformation, regular communication with employees builds trust and transparency, creates sense of safety, and enables management to refine policies.

“We found it very beneficial to directly ask all of our team members how they were feeling about their readiness to return to the workplace,” said Alison Braman, Senior VP of Human Resources at Hilti North America. “That feedback was really critical for us to then be actionable and adjust some of our approaches and decisions as we plan our reboarding.”

Reboarding informs employees of new policies such as physical distancing measures, self-screening processes, and new social norms in the workplace, while also fostering a culture of compliance and accountability among staff. Employers should remain flexible and allow continued work from home. From a liability standpoint, Locke Lord advises that businesses formally write their return-to-work plan.

Approach Changes to Physical Space in Cycles

While many businesses explore completely re-envisioning the workplace, basic adjustments and technologies go a long a way.

“It’s not necessarily about density. It’s about how we manage that density through the workspace,” said Jo Heinz, Principal at DLR Group. “We need to approach this in cycles. Radical, fast changes are not necessarily the right changes.”

Following safe distancing and hygiene is the primary concern. Immediate design changes may include dividers between cubicles and offices, and removal of furniture. Innovation will redefine workspaces, from software that counts a room’s occupancy and artificial intelligence cameras that monitor social distancing to handsfree thermal scanners and UV or electrostatic cleaning equipment.

Determine Your Organization’s Role in Testing and Tracing     

Employers are screening and collecting more personal health information than before, while also making accommodations such as offering COVID-19 testing. Measures may include daily temperature checks, questionnaires on employee health, encouraging sick employees to stay at home, and implementing self-quarantine policies for employees that may be infected. Organizations should identify their role in the collection, storage, and management of employee health data.

For more best practices and facility-specific guidelines, visit the DRC’s Future of Work & Business page.

Watch more videos from our Responsible Return to the Workplace series on our YouTube channel.