Preparing for the Return to the Office: Top 5 Recommendations

Eric Kerr
3 min readMay 7, 2020

There has been no shortage of grand declarations and knee-jerk reactions to what the future of work(place) will look like. From the integration of thermal cameras and a TSA-styled lobby to the definitive death of the office altogether, in favor of remote working.

Before we all get too carried away, how about we all take a collective (masked) breath, slow down, and get back to thinking rationally.

To help you along, here are my top 5 recommendations on how companies should be approaching the return to the office.

1.) Make the invisible, visible!

All building-related programming, policies, and procedures that we didn’t want to bore employees with now need to be shared.

Everything from HVAC filtration and MERV ratings to occupancy data and business continuity plans. It should be clear and concise. And you’ll probably forget to mention something (we’ll get to that in #3), but the dialogue will need to continue.

Not knowing is very anxiety-producing. Over communicate, but keep it concise and easy to digest.

2.) Back of house becomes Front of house!

Janitorial staff and building maintenance personnel can no longer wait to enter your space until after everyone has gone home. Cleaning will need to occur throughout the day.

Not to mention that…

Their jobs are critical to everyone’s safety and they should be seen and applauded for what they do!

Their presence will help to make employees feel safer in the space. Let their presence be known!

3.) There will be a lot of trial and error. Iterate!

Information is changing daily. Be smart about the decisions you make and how much $$ you spend on new technology. We’re gonna make a lot of mistakes and will need to be able to learn and adapt often.

Take some cues from your product team on how to design sprint the hell out of this!

4.) Employees need to be part of the discussion!

Please tell me you are having a consistent dialogue with your employees about their concerns and needs… If not, get on it!

Everyone should be represented at the table for these discussions. Bring in representation from your employee resource groups, they will be more on the pulse of how your people are feeling.

Parents tend to get a lot of the focus, but you have a diverse employee population that all have very different needs. Find out what they are!

5.) Acknowledge your surroundings!

People still need to get from home to work. You must acknowledge the entire journey. And unless your office is on an island, you better find out what the building next door is doing. What about the coffee shop downstairs or the lunch spot that everyone loves??

Partner with your landlord and/or property management company on this. They should already know what’s up.

Whatever the future holds, employees have to be part of the discussion – their needs, their fears, and their wishes. Because without clear and consistent communication there can’t be trust. And without trust, good luck trying to get them back into the office.

We are all navigating a lot right now. Please reach out to me if you need help making sense of it all.





Eric Kerr

Workplace Strategist, Writer + Digital Creator, AI Neophyte, Podcast Host, Ex-Acupuncturist, Theatre Geek