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Developing Return-to-Office Guidelines When the Rules Keep Changing

Nicki Bartels, ESD’s Office Manager, shares how she approached developing guidelines while preparing offices to welcome people back in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

ESD believes the office is a connector of our culture. You can see how your colleagues work and collaborate with the person next to you, which leads to innovation. We are cautiously eager to get back.

Nicki Bartels developed return-to-office guidelines for our offices based on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In order to accomplish this, she researched and developed return-to-office surveys to gauge how our team members were feeling. Nicki also reached out to internal business unit leaders, General Counsel and Human Resources for operations and logistical advice, while working closely and coordinating with the management of the buildings where our offices are located. In addition to developing the guidelines, Nicki set up temperature-scanning stations, procured and installed graphics to communicate and assist with social distancing and ordered supplies – including masks, gloves and sanitizer – to help returning workers feel comfortable.

Juggling so many responsibilities amid an evolving situation can be a tough task.

“The biggest challenge has been the constant changing, having to adjust and trying to keep up,” she said. “There are so many differences between states and cities as we try to create a cohesive plan.”

Thanks to Nicki’s efforts, ESD now follows a four-pronged approach to make sure workers are in a safe and comfortable environment today and in the future:

  1. Remove the source (daily health screening check at home)
  2. Promote good hygiene (wash hands frequently)
  3. Practice social distancing (come back in waves)
  4. Improve indoor air quality (use more outside air in the office)

As part of our Living Lab, we are always testing our solutions so we can give our clients the best advice. ESD is having its guidelines reviewed for WELL Health-Safety Rating, a new rating system that went live in June and is COVID-19 focused. Led by Tim Zelazny, ESD is submitting documentation confirming that its guidelines follow WELL’s cleaning, emergency preparedness, Human Resources along with air and water quality recommendations. Strategies include MERV 13 filters, handwashing, monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ) and free stress education. ESD will go above and beyond by applying for a WELL innovation feature for its temperature scanning checkpoints. All of these encompass our four-point holistic strategy for returning to the office.

Said Von Williams, Accounts Payable Specialist, who goes into the office once a week, “At the end of the day, everyone has to feel safe and comfortable about returning. This will take some time. But Nicki’s leadership has been sensational.”

Continue the conversation about developing return-to-office strategies with Nicki at nbartels@esdglobal.com. Please reach out to Tim at tzelazny@esdglobal.com to explore WELL building strategies.

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