A Guide for Financial Services Return to the Corporate Office
As many global firms find their stay at home orders are being lifted; they are considering how and when to re-open corporate workplaces. The reality is that those workplaces will look very different than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Employee safety considerations and operation function must be considered, and firms will need to stay in the loop on the range of evolving federal, state, and local guidance that addresses protective measures for those team members returning to the corporate office. Planning and implementing “return to office” protocols clearly communicated to employees and regularly revisited will be paramount.
Some considerations for firms as they plan their return-to-work policies from technology to office layouts are covered in this brief guide.
Identifying a Return-to-Work Coordination Team.
Firms should identify their teams responsible for developing, communicating, implementing, and regularly re-evaluating return-to-office plans. Members of the team should include:
- Firm leadership team
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
Each of these team members should be well-versed in plan implementation and available to answer employee inquiries about return-to-work measures.
Who Should Work from the Office?
Many return-to-office plans will consider a percentage (e.g., 25 percent; 50 percent) of the pre-COVID-19 workforce reporting to the office. Your plan may include rotations so that people will only physically report to the office on specific days of the week. Your firm will need to determine the right balance based on the operational needs of your firm, the physical layout of a workplace, technology bandwidth, and how that office can be staffed to lessen close contact between employees. Careful consideration should be given to what is working now for your firm – if you see productivity in your virtual model, there may be no need to rush to bring teams back into the corporate environment.
Practices to Maintain Social Distancing and Covid-19 Hygiene Controls.
Is your office the “6-foot office? “ Return-to-work plans should have specific steps that firms will take to facilitate social distancing for those employees who return. The 6-foot office is one that considers each of these points and ensures that they are in effect. Each firm needs to explore the following:
- What are your daily screening protocols as employees arrive and depart each day?
- Are workstations spaced at new, more distant intervals, No less than 6-feet?
- Are the kitchen, break area, and restroom access be limited to several employees at any one time, are there hands-free options for restrooms and kitchen areas?
- Are “one-way” hallways be implemented to lessen the likelihood of employees passing each other in close proximity? Is protective equipment like masks and gloves readily available?
- Are there policies for wearing a mask while in the office?
- Will employees have the equipment to lessen the frequency with which employees touch shared surfaces?
- Will designated “sanitizing” stations be established, and new office cleaning protocols be emphasized?
Ahead of return to the corporate office firms need to ensure that executive management is coordinating with IT Teams. There are many technical considerations that need to be addressed. These IT reminders need to be shared with employees. Key to consider are some of the following:
- Reviewing power sources in your new 6-foot office floor-plans
- Connectivity overall – does your office require revised internet and phone cable outlets
- Consider if employees need both an in- office and virtual office set up, and what additional hardware needs to be ordered?
- Powering up – if offices have been closed, has hardware been tested ahead of employees’ return.
Business Continuity Plans and Evaluating and Updating Return-to-Office Plans.
While a “return-to-office” plan will be essential to create and share with employees as firms re-open, it must be an organic one. A program that a firm initiates upon re-opening its office in June could be outdated by July. Firms have learned valuable lessons regarding their BCP. Now is the time to review and revise these plans to prepare for future emergencies.
- Implement a revised BCP, including infectious disease control.
- Amend plans to include the latest emergency information, such as updates on epidemics and workplace considerations.
- Perform testing and practice the new or revised plans to ensure employees know what to do and find any missing parts that need to be addressed before another emergency occurs.
- System review to ascertain lessons learnt and elements of the operating model that may need to be digitized to avoid issues if a similar situation occurred in the future. For example, does the firm have digital KYC and AML processes in place, or could this be an option?
In other areas of consideration, there has been speculation that investors may require full disclosure on how many employees have tested positive for COVID-19, so engage the HR lead and ensure you have this information properly recorded. There is more uncertainly than certainly as firms look to remobilize and bring their teams back into the corporate office. If your firm re-mobilizes you may have questions and what is certain is that at RFA we are experts in institutional-quality IT, financial cloud and cyber-security services for firms like yours. If you would like to schedule a call with one of our remobilization experts connect with us today.