The Workplace Operator Readiness Council Publishes Return-to-Office Playbook

WORC’s ‘return to office playbook’ offers detailed guidance to help flexible office operators re-open safely.
  • The Workplace Operator Readiness Council (WORC) is a global coalition of workplace operators and advisors that are developing return-to-office guidelines.
  • WORC’s ‘return to office playbook’ offers detailed guidance to help flexible office operators re-open safely.
  • In collaboration with health experts, WORC created five health pillars for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace now and in the future.

In April of this year, flexible workspace operators announced the formation of the Workplace Operator Readiness Council (WORC), a global coalition of workplace operators and advisors that would work together to develop return-to-office guidelines. 

The council is made up of operators and advisors from America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, including Industrious, Awfis, JustCo, International Workplace Group, Convene, Mindspace, and others. 

Recently, the WORC published its return-to-office playbook, which details operating principles in the post COVID-19 world, the council’s health and safety pillars, decisions points, and actionable steps that operators can take to better prepare spaces for a returning workforce. 

According to the playbook, the council is focused on answering the question: “how to best protect the health and safety of the staff, members, visitors, and anyone else who enters our workspaces.” 

The playbook is quick to add that there’s no simple answer, mainly because the world’s scientific understanding of COVID-19 is evolving quickly and is still nascent. 

“Rather than try to tell you exactly what to do, this document is intended to help you make informed decisions and develop a return-to-office plan that places people first.” 

The Changing Nature of Shared Workspaces

“No matter where your business is based, one thing is clear: Shared workplaces are going to look and operate quite differently than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.” – Workplace Operator Readiness Council 

Because of this, the WORC recommends that all flexible workspace operators should revisit their operating principles. While it’s likely that some will remain the same; others will need some tweaking. 

The council proposes the following as key operating principles: 

  • Make health your first priority
  • Think through the worst case
  • Be transparent, even when it feels uncomfortable
  • Guide towards desired behaviors
  • Know what you need to know (AKA have a roadmap ready for testing and implementation)
  • Meet people where they are

The council also proposes health pillars that flexible workspace operators should embrace when thinking about reopening their spaces. 

“Safely operating in this new context will require a series of interconnected changes that will impact your physical design, services, policies, staffing practices, and more.” In collaboration with health experts, the WORC created five health pillars for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace now and in the future. 

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  1. Access and Tracing. Reduce transmission with new policies around workplace access, visitor screening, and contact tracing.
  2. Cleaning and Disinfection. Minimize the number of surfaces that multiple people touch and relentlessly disinfect those they do.
  3. Physical Distancing. Replan the workplace to make appropriate physical distancing easy.
  4. Services. Revise community and individual offerings to ensure health and safety.
  5. Behavioral Changes and Accountability. Build, share, and reinforce the new norms required for successfully implementing your return-to-office plan.

Preparing Spaces by Type

The playbook goes into great detail on how flexible workspace operators can prepare spaces by type; private offices, lobbys, shared workspaces, kitchen and other common areas, restrooms, hallways, meeting rooms, etc. 

Each space type presented in the playbook is followed by key considerations and questions that operators should ask themselves regarding each space type. 

Beyond space type, the playbook also delves into other important considerations and areas that operators should focus on. These include:

  • Air Quality and HVAC Systems
  • Communications and Signage
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols
  • Personal Protection Equipment (i.e. facemask use within the space)
  • Staff Training and Accountability

Determining When to Reopen

“When to reopen, or resume in-person staffing, is the first major question facing workplace operators. In many countries, the government has not provided consistent direction, and employers have largely taken a wait-and-see approach for non-essential workers. What is clear, however, is that returning to the office will take time — and may require subsequent closings and reopenings — and that COVID-19 will continue to impact different geographies in different ways for months or even years to come.”

The first consideration in this sense is to follow local and national government guidance. Beyond that, the WORC recommends that operators inform themselves on public health recommendations, and employee and member sentiment. 

Questions The WORC suggests operators ask themselves before setting a reopening date in stone include:

  • Do you understand the building reopening plan?
  • What information or indicators should you reference?
  • Should you reopen in phases?
  • What safeguards should be in place before opening?
  • How should you determine if you should close down again?
  • How will your staff and members respond to a decision to open or close?

Your reopening plans should also include a detailed roadmap for what would happen if someone in your space (staff, member, or visitor) tests positive for COVID-19. 

You can access the Workplace Operator Readiness Council’s Return-to-Office playbook here

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