As states gradually reopen their economies from a two-month coronavirus shutdown, companies across the country (including Observer) are drafting their own plans to safely get people back to the office.
Many businesses are looking at Salesforce, known for its management’s focus on creating a safe and healthy workplace, for an example of best practices in these unprecedented situations.
Unlike many of its Silicon Valley peers who have extended work-from-home policies to the end of the year (Twitter has updated its policy to allow most employees to work remotely forever), Salesforce, the largest employer in San Francisco, plans to reopen offices on June 1.
“I hope that we are weeks away from [a broad office reopening] and not months away from that,” Salesforce chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, said in an interview with Axios aired on Monday.
With offices in densely populated cities around the world, Salesforce has seen first-hand how other countries approached reopening from the pandemic. “I’ve been working with these governments all over the world, and I have really been at times very impressed with what they’ve done. And at times I’ve been extremely disappointed,” Benioff told Axios.
The most successful country in doing this, according to Benioff, is South Korea, which largely avoided the worst of the coronavirus. “We should model what they’ve done. They’re way ahead of us in terms of the testing infrastructure, their vision of integration, of how the testing works,” he said.
In Salesforce’s Korean office, employees have started meeting with clients in person since the country lifted quarantine orders on May 11.
Benioff added that “you’re going to have to pick and choose what the right things are for us,” acknowledging that it’s quite unrealistic to implement massive, automated contact tracing program in the U.S., as has been done in South Korea and other Asian countries, due to our privacy laws.
In a tweet on April 26, Benioff laid out a series of steps necessary for a June 1 reopening, including mandating masks in offices, providing financial assistance to employees like the federal CARES program and widespread availability of COVID-19 and antibody testing.
Since then, he has highlighted five measures that he’s deemed most important: masks for all, aggressive hand washing, social distancing, testing when symptomatic and contact tracing.
Benioff also recommends large companies redesign their office layouts and have employees come in teams on different days to prevent dense gatherings.
“We have a Salesforce Tower in New York, and we also have one in San Francisco. We have these things called elevators. Having ten people jammed in an elevator is not great in this pandemic situation,” he spoke on Salesforce’s own situation in an interview with Yahoo Finance last week.
“So, maybe only so many people can be allowed in an elevator at one point,” he added. “Maybe people can only sit in certain parts of the office. And there will probably be shifts for some employees.”