How to reopen your workplace, according to Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco (MSFT, AMZN, SBUX, COST)


Microsoft headquarters

  • A group led by a Seattle-based venture capital firm put together a guide to returning employees to offices during the pandemic, using tips from companies like Microsoft and Amazon.
  • The guide included step-by-step tips for planning the return and preparing the office and employees.
  • It also included resources like where to buy personal protective equipment for employees without cutting into medical worker supplies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Microsoft has a team of 55 people managing the company’s pandemic response and eventual return to campus, Katie Drucker, head of business development for Seattle Venture Capital firm Madrona Venture Group, told Business Insider.

Smaller companies don’t have the same resources, so a group led by Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group compiled a guide to help them by surveying large employers like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco.

The result is a “toolkit for reopening the office and getting back to work” and it includes a step-by-step guide for planning your company’s return to the office. It includes specific resources such as where to buy personal protective equipment for employees without depleting supplies for medical workers.

“Truly, when the rubber hits the road, what do you have to do if you’re not a company like Microsoft?” Drucker said. “We literally have everything in front of you that you need.”

It’s unclear when businesses that have moved their employees to remote work will return to offices. Microsoft, for example, has asked employees to stay home indefinitely and Amazon recently extended its work-from-home guidance for corporate until October. As the back-to-work guide notes, it’s unlikely that companies will be able to return to offices without implementing significant new employee safety measures to deter the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is available.

Here are some of the tips included in guide:

Planning the return

  • Create a response team– which could include company executives, representatives from legal, HR, and facilities teams, landlords, and contractors — who can meet daily to set policies and plan for the reopening.
  • Employers should seek key data sources such as the CDC and WHO and defer to the most restrictive guidance.
  • Classify essential and non-essential workers by role or geography, and find out if any employees are in high-risk categories. Decide what percentage of employees should return to work, and at what intervals. 
  • Working from home, when feasible, is always the best option.

Preparing the workspace

  • Employers should consider providing personal protective equipment to all on-site employees, which could include re-useable masks, hand sanitizer and antiseptic hand wipes, infrared thermometers and gloves.
  • In the office, employers should limit or close communal areas, such as shutting down food service areas and gyms, and start “robust cleaning procedures.”
  • Employers should restrict group sizes to less than five or 10 people and eliminate or limit visitors. Consider restricting travel, and self-quarantine employees who travel to higher risk areas for 14 days after return. Consider tracking meeting times, dates and attendees and storing the information for 28 days.
  • Help employees with physical distancing through measures such as floor marking, physical barriers such as plexiglass for IT teams, and remove extra seats. “Consider having employees use an app or bracelet that indicates when they have been closer than 6 feet,” the report suggests. 

Preparing the employees

  • Provide training on topics like how to spot and self-report COVID-19 symptoms, how to take care of personal protective equipment, and physical distancing. Trainings can happen through live-webinars, video series, or one-on-one meetings.
  • Consider anonymous surveys to allow employees to offer honest feedback on if they are ready to go back to a physical work environment, and continue surveying employees once they’ve returned. Provide at least weekly COVID response team updates.
  • Communicate processes and expectations for returning to work, such as changes to work flexibility or benefit policies and workplace guidelines. 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How waste is dealt with on the world’s largest cruise ship