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Case Study

How We're Safely & Cost-Effectively Bringing People Back to the Office

As you explore the best ways to approach returning to the workplace, it can feel daunting and a bit like a guessing game. We're in the same boat and here to help you plan for the safest, most cost-effective way to return to the office by sharing our experience and decisions thus far. You'll hear from our company's top decision-makers and return-to-workplace team on how we've brought employees back into the office, what we're learning, and the tools we've implemented to stay agile.

Catalyst Showroom Case Study Header Website

Our process

  1. Company-wide Employee Survey
  2. Assemble a Return-to-Workplace Team
  3. Define Goals
  4. Define Budget & Timeline
  5. Present & Implement Design Solutions & New Protocols to Company
  6. Tools for Measuring Success & Feedback

1. Company-wide Employee Survey

"We initiated an employee survey to understand better how they felt, their interest in continuing to work from home, and their overall expectations for returning to the office. We used this data to inform our goals and new office layouts, emphasizing social distancing, and workspace health and safety requirements."
Sean O'Brien, President & CEO

Key Survey Results

How are employees feeling about their schedule when they return to the office?

  • 39% want a similar schedule as before
  • 45% want a different schedule upon return
  • 16% are not sure if they are ready to return

Our employees say they're looking forward to:

  • 74% are looking forward to in-person interaction: meetings, social time, and client interactions
  • 50% say tools and comforts of the office: ergonomic settings, product samples, printers/plotters, dual monitors, and more desk space

Our employee's most significant concerns about coming back to the office:

  • 54% say distance and shared spaces: i.e., meeting spaces, kitchens, visitor spaces benching, tight desk layouts, shared surfaces/tools
  • 38% say cleaning and sick time: i.e., easy access to hand sanitizer/disinfectant, what areas and how often spaces will be sanitized and supporting people to stay home if sick

2. Assemble a Return-to-Workplace (RTW), Team

"Our return-to-workplace group has consulted with some of the sharpest workplace strategists, experts, and business minds around, and collectively listened to hundreds of educational webinars focused on space. This Phase I plan presented to our employees was based on the feedback we've received from employees, and the insights from our partners at Herman Miller, a plan that we know may change rapidly."
- Dave Masin, Director of Sales

The Return-to-Workplace Team

  • President & CEO
  • Information Technology (IT) Director
  • Director of Sales
  • Human Resources' (HR) Manager
  • Senior Furniture Consultant
  • Client Services Coordinator
  • Associate Designer

3. Define Goals

"Working without a budget or enough time to get any new product, our goal was to make small adjustments to our spaces to maintain physical distancing guidelines and create a space where our employees felt safe and comfortable returning to the workplace."
Melissa Willis, Associate Designer

"Our main focus was on the safety of our Catalyst employees—ensuring we had proper personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation stations, social distancing signage, and cleaning protocols."
Monika Eggehorn, Client Services Coordinator

"Catalyst was fortunate to have all the critical infrastructure components in place to allow remote work pre-COVID. Reducing the number of stations in the office allowed us to lend monitors to remote workers. With a blend of remote workers and people in the office, our goal is to provide the same high level of support as we did before COVID – because we know our employees are doing vital work to support our customers."
- Catherine Campbell, IT Director

4. Define Budget & Timeline

"We needed to do this on a small budget and a short timeline of a month... Design on a dime!"
Janine Perrotti, Senior Furniture Consultant

5. Present & Implement Design Solutions & New Protocols to Company

"HR's role on the team is to focus specifically on ensuring our workspace meets federal, state, and local safety requirements. This includes maintaining our COVID-19 safety plan, ensuring we have all necessary PPE, and educating all new and existing employees on all safety protocols."
Lorna Jackson, HR Manager

"If an employee had an assigned seat before COVID, they still have that seat available to them when they decide to come back into the office."
Stephanie Ploof, Account Executive

Pre-COVID Office Layout

Pre COVID Overall Rendering
Pre COVID - Overall Office Plan

Post-COVID Office Layout - Phase I

Post COVID Overall Rendering
Post-COVID Overall Office Plan - Phase I

Pre to Post COVID Office Layout Changes

  1. New building access procedures & health screening & QR mobile check-in
  2. Socially distanced all work points, reduced meeting room capacity, and removing seating and furniture when necessary.
  3. Signage: one-way arrows, meeting room capacity, and reminders to socially distance

  4. Reduced meeting room capacity to support social distancing
  5. Seven sanitation stations have been placed throughout the office and include disinfecting wipes, gloves, masks, etc.
  6. Replaced collaborative areas with individual work points

"This Phase I plan we presented to our employees at our twice-monthly all-company huddle, was based on the feedback we've received from employees and the insights from our partners at Herman Miller, a plan that we know may change rapidly. We made sure to communicate the biggest factor in the success of this Phase I roll-out is personal responsibility from all our employees and strictly following all guidelines. We presented HR resources, office protocols, office design changes, returning employees' office schedules, and seating arrangements."
Dave Masin, Director of Sales

"Multiple team members have assisted in ensuring Catalyst meets all safety requirements. For example, our IT Director and Operations Manager quickly implemented a QR code health questionnaire at all facility entrances and a remote version for our field workers. This enables us to ensure any employee or staff member who enters our premises or works on a job site has been safely health screened, thus minimizing risk. Our ability to self-screen employees' health also gives us contact-tracing information. We are not forcing people to come in but have encouraged people to try it out by offering to have folks come in one day a week with a minimal number of people."
Lorna Jackson, HR Manager

"We lost ten unassigned workstations but no loss to assigned workstations."
- Janine Perrotti, Senior Furniture Consultant

"We made small changes to workstations that included rotating some stations so that users were not facing one another, adjusting the spacing between clusters of stations, and removing stations altogether when physical distancing simply wasn’t possible. We took a similar approach to our meeting and collaborative areas. In our main conference room, we split our large table apart into smaller tables that we were able to space apart. We utilized the smaller tables towards the backs of conference rooms to create an additional row of seating, split lounge seating and break room seating apart, and reduced capacity in several of our collaborative areas. In addition to these changes, we also added sanitation stations throughout the offices, turned hallways into one-way streets, and limited capacity in our break rooms and copy areas."
-Melissa Willis, Associate Designer

"We worked closely with our team, survey workplace consultant, and department teams to assign specific days to specific teams. We wanted to take a slow approach for returning to the office, and each team having an assigned day of the week helps us achieve this."
- Stephanie Ploof, Account Executive

"Our Janitorial service has ramped up to five nights a week, disinfecting all workstations and touchpoints. At the same time, designated operations employees come through the office a couple of times a day to wipe down surfaces and touchpoints. We also updated our HVAC system and installed a new Ionizer system to keep the air clean and properly filtered."

- Monika Eggehorn, Client Services Coordinator

"IT support happens via remote control, even when we are in the office, to provide a safe and contactless experience. Another critical component of our remote work transition was the conversion to Microsoft Teams for communication. The Return To Work plan relies on Teams - those who choose to come to the office can join a meeting in a Teams Room or from their workstation and those who wish to work remotely can participate from home."

- Catherine Campbell, IT Director

6. Tools for Measuring Success & Feedback

Employee Survey - Round 2

Click here to start an employee survey in your organization >

"We want to know how this works. We need feedback so we can make it a safer place for everyone and more user friendly. We will be sending out a follow-up survey to gather these insights and build upon the results from our first survey."
Lorna Jackson, HR Manager

Live Platform - Workplace Performance Analytics

Click here to learn more about Live Platform >

"We are keeping tabs on capacity, so we will ramp up or ramp down in terms of the number of employees and adjust as needed."
Stephanie Ploof, Account Executive

"Teamwork is everything at Catalyst! The real-time data is collected in our facilities to keep our employees informed and safe when they return to work is as well. Catalyst's investment in Herman Miller's Live Platform has made it possible to manage occupancy for meeting rooms and socially distanced work areas throughout the office. With so many still working from home, a competitive advantage for us was how quickly and efficiently our teams engaged in this new normal. Now it's the reverse. The new normal is building confidence in returning to the office and igniting the innovation, collaboration, and team energy that Catalyst is known for.

I think we are very prepared to support our employees who choose to return to the office and those who remain working from home. We also are anxious to share our learning with our clients who are facing the same challenges."
Sean O'Brien, President & CEO

Not sure how to approach bringing employees back into the office?

We've done it and can help you take the first step. Whether you have a simple question that needs answering or you're looking for detailed strategies to safely and inexpensively provide employees options to return to the office, it's simple to get started.

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