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Returning to the Office: A Post-COVID Guide

As we continue to adapt to the new normal that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, employers and employees alike are looking for ways to safely keep working and growing their businesses. With vaccine distribution in progress and CDC guidelines in place, most companies are ready to create a plan for bringing at least a portion of their employees back into the office.

The question for many organizations is: How do we do this in a way that keeps our employees both safe and productive?

The back-to-the-office approach that works for your organization will depend on factors like office size, headcount, workstyles, company culture, and more. You’ll need to tailor your approach to meet your company’s specific needs as well as the expectations of your employees. The Vari® Post-COVID Workspace Flexibility Survey questioned hundreds of office-based employees across a wide range of industries about their desires and expectations in returning to the workplace. This guide will take an in-depth look at the results of that survey and offer our recommendations for your back-to-the-office plan based on our insights, as well as recognized CDC safety guidelines and best practices.

In the spring of 2020, many employees made the sudden transition away from the office to a full-time work-from-home schedule. In our Return to Productivity eBook, Texas A&M University researcher Dr. Mark Benden reported that it took approximately 30 days for teams to resume the same levels of productivity after making the change to a work-from-home environment. While employees in our recent survey responded that they felt more productive, they also reported some other interesting factors in their experience working remotely.

According to the Vari Post-COVID Workspace Flexibility Survey, most employees expected to be back in the office for at least part of the workweek sometime in 2021, but 84% also said they expect their employer to implement a more flexible work-from-home policy post-pandemic.

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 56% of U.S. workers have jobs that are at least partially compatible with working remotely and that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. *

So, for many organizations, the new reality going forward will have to be a hybrid approach that accommodates the workspace needs of employees both at home and in the office.

The Changes Employees Want

When creating a back-to-the-office plan, the health and safety of employees are obviously the most important consideration. Those returning to the office want to know that the proper precautions are being taken and that any concerns they may have about returning to the office are being listened to and addressed.

When asked about what they expect upon returning to the office, employees mentioned a range of precautions that they want their employer to implement to keep them safe and confident at work. The most popular included mask mandates, social distancing between workstations, increased sanitization, and limiting in-person meetings.

Why Go Back to the Office?

After a year of such unprecedented change, many employees are looking forward to getting back into the office. Our survey found that the leading reason respondents would prefer to work primarily from the office is productivity. Culture is also an important factor, with respondents saying they look forward to more camaraderie and collaboration with coworkers.

This presents employers with the challenge of providing an office environment that prioritizes safety and creates an office that is a place for culture, collaboration, and communication.

However, there are also some employees who would prefer to continue working primarily from home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leading reason they give for wanting to remain at home is to avoid the risk of virus transmission in the office.

This presents employers with the dual challenge of creating a new work environment that brings people safely back to the office while also making sure that employees working from home can stay productive and feel connected to their team.

Conditions and guidelines are sure to continue to change, so staying flexible will be essential. Organizations that are set up to embrace the changes that come their way will find it easier to thrive and stay productive. By following the guidelines above as well as those of the CDC and local health authorities, you can meet your employees’ expectations for safety and comfort, while setting up your organization for success.

About the Author

Vari's approach to the workspace is about more than office furniture. They make it easy to create a space that adapts and changes with your growing business. To schedule a showroom tour, receive the CRE615 discount, or learn more, contact Tyler Murray at

CRE615 is a networking group and educational platform for Nashville's next generation of commercial real estate professionals. To learn more visit


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