Jun 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

The slow, complicated process of reopening offices

Illustration of one woman in a cubicle surrounded by empty cubicles
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While the coronavirus' months-long work-from-home experiment is working out for some firms and their employees, many other workers are stressed out or cooped up in their homes — and eager to return to their workplaces.

Why it matters: Corporate America's decision to send their workers home in March was an overnight one, but bringing those people back will take much longer. It'll happen over months and in phases.

What's happening: Human resources departments around the country are fielding emails from workers asking when they can start coming in again, and they're formulating plans to open back up safely.

  • Cloudflare, the web infrastructure company, is soliciting petitions from employees and will let a fraction return to work first based on who makes the most compelling argument, reports Quartz. Is it hard to take a sales call because you're working around one kitchen table with three roommates? Do your pets make it impossible for you to concentrate?
    • But problems could arise from asking staff to share personal information, Quartz notes. People could have any number of reasons why they feel stressed — or even unsafe — working from home that they don't want to share with their employers.
  • Other companies, Apple among them, are starting by inviting back those workers who cannot do their jobs remotely.

The bottom line: Even though there are many people who can't wait to be back in the office, many of those people become less excited when they hear what the post-pandemic office will look like.

  • Workers envision big meetings and coffee breaks with colleagues, but when they hear the office will have only a few people — plus social distancing and temperature screenings — far fewer say they want to come back, Janet Van Huysse, head of people at Cloudflare, told Quartz.
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