Reopening Your Office Safely

Heightened safety measures are on everyone’s mind these days. Behaviors we took for granted for most of our lives are now being scrutinized. As offices are beginning to reopen around the world, employee expectations have changed and leaders are working to understand what is required in reopening offices safely.

Opening offices safely requires everyone adhere to the policies outlined. According to a recent article from Joseph Grenny, “Keeping employees and customers safe and healthy while doing business in an ongoing pandemic will not only hinge on behaviors like wearing masks, performing temperature checks, washing hands, and staying six feet apart. It will rely on getting all of us to do these things, every time, for however long it takes. And that doesn’t happen unless those who see someone drop the ball speak up and remind them.”

However we are not always comfortable speaking up and calling someone out. Especially if they are in a position of authority. The article goes on to outline five practices you can implement to ensure you are reopening your office safely.

Require Please and Thank You

While this may sound strange at first, it is a way to empower everyone to speak up without fear. In addition to following all safety protocols yourself, you are asked to address anyone who is not following the safety protocols with a please statement. For example, “please remember to wear your mask in the office.” The person being asked to adhere to the policy is then required to respond with a thank you statement. This creates accountability for everyone in the organization, and no one is exempt.

Have a Covid-19 All Hands Meeting

As employees come back to the office, hold an all hands meeting to discuss what the new normal is going to look like. Leadership should present new policies and facilitate questions from employees openly and honestly. Leadership is also encouraged to use real life examples from friends, family, customers, and vendors to personalize why compliance is so important. Finally, demonstrate new policies during the meeting. Role play situations that employees are going to have questions about. For example, if you have a kitchen area in the office, show how employees should clean the area after use.

Practice Daily

In the spirit of fire drills, make sure you run through scenarios every day for the first few weeks of being back in the office. A one time all hands meeting will be soon forgotten without diligent follow up. And remember, leadership must take part in the daily practice as well. At first leadership should take point on the fire drills, then assign point to employees to see if they have mastered the new protocol. After a few weeks, and evidence that everyone is aligned, the daily drill can be reduced to a weekly drill.


Just like doctors, leadership should conduct rounds throughout the day. Pick different times to check and see how well compliance mandates are being met. Develop a checklist and keep score each time you perform a round. Then post the score in a common area where everyone can see it. The scoring should be for the office as a whole and not point out individuals specifically. By placing the information publicly, everyone can see how the company is doing. You could also set incentives for achieving certain goals, like maintaining a 95% compliance rate for a week. 

Reopening offices is important to get the economy back on track and reduce employee anxiety. It is also a situation we’ve never faced before. So while the idea of calling others out and gamifying good hygiene behaviors may feel awkward initially, remembering what caused the pandemic in the first place should remind us that being pushed outside of our comfort zone is a small price to pay for getting back to work and keeping the office open.

If you have thoughts or questions on how your culture can evolve during uncertain times, send us a note, we are experts on building solid cultural foundations starting with the c-suite on down.