Coworkers wearing masks collaborating in safe work environment.

Creating your return to work plan


Why planning now is critical for future success

4 min read

Where we work looks different today, and will look different in the future.

While that uncertainty raises questions, there is one that rises above the rest: how can your organization plan to reopen safely, smartly, and in a way that lets you adapt to an ever-changing world?

Deciding if, when, and how to bring people back into your buildings is a complicated process. That’s why we’ve put together information addressing the two major decision points, three key considerations of any return to the workplace plan, and helpful resources to download and use.

Whether you bring people back in a limited capacity or opt for a more permanent hybrid working model, you should consider how to accomplish two things as you build out your re-entry strategy:

  • Putting employee safety at the center of your strategy – while still meeting the needs of your business
    Employees are your greatest resource. To give them a safe and productive environment, you must start with their health. Will they be able to assess their ability to come to the workplace (based on self-reported symptoms)? Once they’re in the office, will they have the necessary tools to reserve a safe and compliant space? Will their environment support healthy interactions? And will you have a contact tracing team to identify anyone who might be exposed and follow up with impacted employees to check on their recovery? All of these things need to be considered.

  • Enabling your organization to manage through disruption with confidence
    To do that, you need solutions to address both the short and long-term effects of this pandemic. That means access to critical data to monitor and manage risk level, optimize space in your facilities, monitor occupancy and implement or augment key projects. For example, how will you ensure that every facility has enough personal protective equipment (PPE)? Will you need to install barriers or hand sanitizing stations, and, if so, how will you manage projects across your enterprise? As we’ve seen, things happen fast, so you’ll also need a consistent flow of data to react quickly as circumstances change.

Addressing those two decision points is step one. The actual solutions you choose in three critical areas come next.

Learn more about monitoring workplace conditions during COVID-19


Re-entry & facilities management

3 min read

Use data to decide how and when to safely return to workplaces and prepare your buildings.

Any plan should be built on tools that address the “who, how, and when.” Timing should be based on health data and community risk insights, along with employee-provided health information, such as recent COVID-19 test results and vaccination status. As you gather that information, consider how you’ll protect employees’ private health information, as well as others who come into your facilities. Health re-entry standards must be implemented so that privacy is preserved for anyone who needs to authorize health status verifications. Additionally, any solution you use should offer a centralized view of that information. A single source of health and workplace re-entry information will help you make quick, informed decisions, and take action. That same data will also be valuable to management and to employees.

Simultaneously, you need to make sure your facilities are ready. That means evaluating your buildings, then implementing and tracking critical initiatives, like the PPE we mentioned above. Equally important, you need to capture and monitor the metric that matters most – occupancy. Because now more than ever, you have to know who is using your spaces and when, and react quickly with dynamic space plans if needed. Consider also using this time to reimagine and repurpose your facilities, such as developing space as a destination or creating new outdoor reservable space. Plus, occupancy data can help you identify consolidation opportunities to reduce costs.

What is the case for investing in workplace technology? Learn more here


Worker & workplace safety

1 min read

Enhance safety measures and monitor operations.

Once you’ve decided when to re-open and created a healthy environment, you have to focus on worker and workplace safety, and guard the health of everyone in your facilities. Data and AI technologies can help. Combining sensor technologies with real-time location services gives you insights you need to monitor occupancy and physical distancing requirements, take action, and minimize the impact to productivity.

For example, you can employ visual recognition AI that screens for mask usage or makes sure people are maintaining the proper social distancing. Technology can also help you monitor critical health factors like elevated body temperature.


Contact tracing & care management

1 min read

Mitigate the risk of exposures and help employees access services.

Another critical area for which you must plan: what happens if someone gets sick? When you re-open, you’ll need to identify the first signs of infection. Consider using digitally assisted (but always human-centered) care management to perform contact tracing that integrates sensor and space reservation data. That information lets you move quickly to identify potential exposures and monitor affected individuals. That also gives you an opportunity to encourage them to self-quarantine in order to mitigate the spread. Determine, too, how you’ll support employees who test positive.

The CHRO’s guide to workforce re-entry


A smarter strategy starts today

1 min read

A safer, smarter workplace is only possible with planning that starts today.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to re-entry. IBM Watson Works can help you make those difficult decisions and develop a smarter and safer return to the workplace plan. Available now, Watson Works solutions use data, AI, and blockchain technologies to help organizations emerge from COVID-19, stronger.

Whether you’re looking for one solution or the full suite of offerings, IBM and Watson Works can help you monitor and manage risk levels, adhere to evolving guidelines and policies, and help your organization navigate through disruptions with confidence.