Survey Says Employers Are Ready to Re-Open Offices, but Recognize Challenges Lay Ahead


States across the nation are lifting stay at home orders and allowing offices to reopen their doors. But are employers ready to bring their employees back to an office environment?

OperationsInc, one of the largest human resources consulting firms in the nation, recently conducted an independent survey which found that two-thirds of employers plan to reopen their offices on or before July 1, provided they are allowed to do so.

However, the polling results from more than 425 businesses across the country show that employers foresee many obstacles tied to reopening, bringing employees back, and keeping offices safe.

David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, says that employers appear to be proceeding with caution, recognizing that businesses do not expect an immediate return to office normalcy.

“In looking thoughtfully at the results of our survey, the overall theme is a recognition amongst employers that returning to the office is going to present a multitude of challenges,” Lewis said. “It is clear that most businesses intend to offer employees some level of remote flexibility.”

“There are numerous safety issues to overcome, and survey respondents recognize this. Organizations worry about how they are going to secure and pay for the appropriate PPE and cleaning materials they need, and how safe of an environment they will be able to maintain,” Lewis added.

“All in all a return to normal is not the focus. A slow move to use the office in some capacity is a better description.”

Lewis also noted the financial hit employers will feel when reopening, and most have felt since closing.

“There are a number of financial factors that will take their toll, including the cost of reopening and maintaining a safe workplace. This amounts to additional budget line items companies didn’t plan for and will struggle to absorb,” Lewis explained.

Employers Anticipate a Long Road Ahead

Concerns most reported by survey respondents were tied to employee health and safety and the continued decline of the global economy.

  • 61% of those surveyed said that the delayed released of the SBA’s PPP loan forgiveness guidance has impacted their use of PPP loan dollars. Businesses under 50 employers reported the highest levels of impact. – Note – at the time this survey was open, the SBA had not yet released the guidelines put forth on May 15.
  • 77% expressed concern that they will not be able to acquire PPE and disinfecting products necessary to keep workplaces and employees safe.
  • 62% are concerned with the costs associated with providing employees with PPE, as well as the increased expenditures on supplies needed to clean, sanitize, and limit the spread of workplace germs.
  • 85% of those surveyed have installed hand sanitizer dispensers in their offices as a means to limit the spread of workplace germs.
  • 41% of survey respondents will allow employees to use office kitchens/pantries, but only once stringent safety measures are put in place.
    • 14% plan to close their pantry and kitchen completely.
    • 36% were still unsure how to manage this high traffic space at the time they took the survey.

Offices May Move to Reopen, but Remote Work is Here to Stay

Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents plan to reopen their offices before July 1, assuming it is safe to do so. But these employers say that reopening their offices does not mean they will mandate all employees to return immediately.

Polling participants indicated that ongoing Remote Work Programs will be a key component of their business continuity plans for the foreseeable future, which has employers worried.

  • 47% of survey respondents say they can accommodate up to 50% of their staff in-office under the new social distancing guidelines, further driving for ongoing use of remote work arrangements.
  • 21% of organizations surveyed report that it will be extremely difficult to perform at pre-COVID-19 performance levels in a continued all virtual office setup.
    • An additional 41% report that it will be somewhat difficult.
    • 38% of those surveyed say that a continued virtual office setup would have no impact on their organization’s ability to perform at pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • Just 5% of survey participants plan to mandate that employees return to the workplace, regardless of the employee’s underlying health conditions or concerns about health and safety.
    • 56% said that they will allow employees with underlying health conditions and/or those with people with underlying health conditions in their household to continue to work remotely.
    • 37% have yet to decide their plan for this employee population.
  • 53% of companies polled have employees who commute to work via public transportation.
    • 61% of these companies say they will allow their employees to work remotely until the safety of public transportation is increased.

Childcare Gaps Anticipated to Continue, Employee Impact Expected

The childcare coverage issues sparked by school closures are expected to continue, as many communities across the nation have announced summer camp cancellations and summer programming reductions.

  • 84% of employers polled say they have employees on staff who are parents or guardians of children under the age of 16.
  • 76% of these employers are concerned about the impact a lack of summer programming will likely have on the availability of their workforce.
  • 46% of these employers will allow employees with childcare issues to work remotely to the extent they can do so, with an additional 13% reporting they will allow these employees to work an altered schedule.
  • 34% of this population had not yet determined how to tackle this issue at the time of the survey.

Survey data was collected online between May 6, 2020 and May 12, 2020. Businesses from thirty-seven states participated in the poll.

Full survey results can be found at

Founded by CEO David Lewis in 2001, OperationsInc provides HR related support to over 1,600 businesses of all sizes and across all industries. The HR consultancy, which is one of the largest in the nation, has a portfolio of over 200 different HR related services, including  Human Resources Outsourcing and Consulting, Managed Payroll Services, Payroll and HR Contingency and Continuity Planning, Reduction in Force Management and Administration, Interim and Emergency HR and Payroll Support, Outsourced Recruiting Services, HR Crisis Management Services, Online Training & Development Services, Employee Leave Management, Organizational Development Services, and Benefits Administration.

OperationsInc also has developed a special COVID-19 response division, designed to help businesses optimize and enhance remote work programs, and safely and effectively reopen office locations.

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