Companies are turning their attention to how their employees will return to the workplace after abruptly being made to work from home. COVID-19 initially created challenges as the global workforce quickly pivoted to working remotely. While there will be long-term impacts to the future of workplace, our focus is now turning to the immediate concern: How will we all return to the workplace? The date of the return is still uncertain. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said, “returning to work will be gradual, phased-in and will vary by factors such as location, sector, business type or size, and the health status of workers. It also will require continued social distancing, expanded use of personal protective equipment, and other counter-measures.” Employers are asking questions about the changes they need to make to ensure that the post-pandemic workplace is safe, functional and most importantly, builds trust with their employees. Questions like:

Through extensive research and discussions with our clients around the world, we have divided the actions that space occupiers will need to take to ready their workplaces for their employees’ return into five categories. The following recommendations represent the current thinking on best practices and immediate actions to be considered. Longer term actions will be explored in a later blog piece, but these actions will not jeopardize longer terms investments.

Design and Space Changes 

To help maintain the six-foot social distancing recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some alterations will need to be made to space layouts and furniture. It should be noted that for the initial return to the workplace, we see most actions as behavior and cleaning related, rather than space changes. A sampling of changes includes:

New Behaviors

Communication and Navigation

Hygiene and cleaning


These are only a sampling of the initiatives that companies are taking to get their workplaces ready for their employees’ return. Colliers is continuing to learn from this unprecedented event and will share our insights and recommendations as they develop. Our collective experiences now will shape the workplace for years to come. Many things will never be what they once were. But the first task in front of us it to get back to the workplace and back to working together.

Other Resources:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce National Return to Work plan

WHO: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19

Pandemic Preparedness Manual, IFMA

CDC: Keeping your workplace safe

About the Authors:

This article was written by the Colliers’ Workplace Advisory team, within Occupier Services, whose mission is to advise external and internal clients in the strategic design of their workplaces. Please contact: Keith PerskeKate North, Michelle Cleverdon, or Charlotte Timms, for more information.