82% of Employers Will Let Workers Decide When It’s Safe to Return to Office

82% of Employers Will Let Workers Decide When It’s Safe to Return to Office

Though, 27% are planning to reopen as soon as COVID-19 safety regulations allow
An office worker hanging up a sign

If you’re worried about being exposed to COVID-19 when you return to your office, you may be able to stay home until you believe it’s safe.

More than 8 in 10 (82%) employers said they’ll let workers set timelines for returning to the office, while only 18% said they’ll require employees to return, according to new research from tax, audit and advisory firm KPMG.

As companies make plans for 2021, employees’ safety and their peace of mind appear to be top priorities.

Employees may return in waves

Employers are mulling various approaches to bringing the workforce back to the office:

  • 30% are asking workers in certain roles to return while others continue to work from home
  • 27% are letting all employees return whenever they’re ready
  • 25% are requesting that employees come in for certain activities as long as they feel safe

In general, employers are bringing workers back later rather than sooner.

Only 27% are planning to bring workers back as soon as COVID-19 safety regulations would allow. Instead:

  • 22% will look at the coronavirus threat level in their communities
  • 19% will wait until a few weeks after COVID-19 safety regulations allow
  • 20% have no definite plans on when they’ll return to the office
  • 13% don’t believe it’s necessary for workers to return on a daily basis

Many workers have been able to save money on transportation since they stopped commuting during the pandemic.

Employers implementing other safety measures

As the pandemic winds into a second year, companies are changing business protocols and taking steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission once employees gather again.

More than half (52%) will implement social distancing guidelines, while 48% will perform contact tracing — identifying workers who’ve been potentially exposed to infected employees. Also:

  • 44% will check employees daily for COVID-19 symptoms
  • 43% will purchase personal protection equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves
  • 43% will require employees with high-risk health concerns to keep working remotely
  • 42% will enhance sanitization procedures

However, many companies are still working out the details. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) said they’ve only begun to draft a framework for managing the risks associated with bringing employees back. Another 35% said they’re close to a final framework and 28% said they have a fully approved final framework.

Methodology: Global firm KPMG surveyed senior executives from 100 companies and government organizations that have about 5 million employees total. Companies surveyed in September 2020 had annual revenue of at least $1 billion. Companies represented the following industries: consumer markets and retail; government; life sciences; financial services; industrial manufacturing; and technology, media and telecommunications.