Elyse Dickerson has spent a lot of time wiping down doorknobs, workstations, and other high-traffic touch points in anticipation of her employees returning to the office. Although she's Eosera's CEO and co-founder, she knew that without her cleaning efforts, the Fort Worth-based biotech firm wouldn't be ready for a meeting with all 20 employees earlier this week.
But that was probably the last time for a while that the whole staff will get together in one room. The 10 front office employees have been encouraged to take turns coming in. Though nothing is finalized, the plan is to have half of them work in the office on certain days while the other half works from home, and then swap.
Only those comfortable with working in-office will be obliged to do so, though Dickerson thinks most employees will be happy to come in after eight weeks at home: "It's a big morale booster. We were starting to get fatigued."
As states reopen, companies are grappling with how to safely return to their offices. Eosera is checking employees' temperatures at the door, and has told them to stay at home if they feel sick. Masks are not required in the office, but Dickerson says she trusts that none of her workers will break quarantine during their remote workdays.
Though office staff were able to work remotely, the company, which makes products for ear care, couldn't cease production. For the past eight weeks, it had already been adjusting schedules of the 10 workers in its production facility. Eosera mandated personal protective measures in the facility, and rearranged equipment to maintain social distancing. The real challenge, though, was figuring out how employees could take breaks. In the past, they all stopped at the same time, shutting down production for at least an hour and getting together in a break room.
With such gatherings no longer possible, workers have begun taking breaks in shifts--which turns out to improve productivity. Instead of shutting the whole line down, one or two workers at a time takes a break while everyone else keeps the line running. That's more efficient, and has benefited employees--without the equipment shut down for long stretches, they have been able to leave an hour earlier than usual each day.
Other companies have employed similar scheduling strategies. Mike Faith, CEO and founder of Headsets.com, a San Francisco-based maker of telephone headsets, has let his office staff work from home since March and plans to continue doing so. But for his three-person shipping team, he's created a quarantined facility.
He's also formed another three-person backup shipping team. The primary team continues to fill orders while the secondary team stands by, ready to come in and take over if anyone on the primary team contracts Covid-19.
While her employees have stayed relatively healthy, Dickerson doesn't yet feel like her company is in the clear--even with the new policies. But at the same time, she thinks working from home has had a negative effect on productivity: "There's only so much you can do over Zoom," she says.
For businesses that can afford to keep their employees working from home, it probably makes sense to do so. Even with more states allowing offices to reopen, the Centers for Disease Control still recommends practicing social distancing and avoiding large groups. But if your workers are suffering Zoom fatigue (or there's another compelling reason to return to the office), staggering employees' schedules may be an effective way to get some much-needed face time--from a distance.