Chamber Return-to-Work Survey: Businesses Ready to Welcome Employees Back in 2020

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As the state’s economy continues to reopen, businesses are faced with the challenge of safely welcoming employees back, establishing work-from-home protocols, or doing both. The Detroit Regional Chamber called on regional business leaders to share their thoughts on this process to help inform the creation of productive resources for employers, as well as inform policymakers on the needs of businesses amid reopening. The survey of nearly 170 respondents was conducted June 3-17, 2020 via an online survey tool.

Highlights from the Poll

  • 62% of respondents have more than three-quarters of their workforce working remotely.
  • 83% of respondent organizations have a return-to-work strategy.
  • Only 5% of respondents stated their organization will not begin transitioning back into the workplace until 2021, with 46% stating they will immediately, or within 1-2 months, begin returning to the workplace after being allowed to reopen. Another 40% have already begun returning to the workplace.
  • 58% of respondents state their workplaces will be a hybrid of in-person and remote work post-COVID-19, as opposed to only 28% implementing that strategy before COVID-19.
  • 47% of respondents stated their organization is not considering transitioning a portion of staff to work from home permanently
  • 23% of respondents stated their organizations will require returning to the workplace fulltime, with the remainder split between working remotely full-time (14%), returning to the workplace in some capacity (35%), and employee’s choice (28%).
  • The majority of respondents stated their organizations have already or are in the process of the following: bringing back employees in phases (66%), restricting the number of people on site (66%), or limiting on-site movement (61%).
  • Nearly 70% of respondents anticipate their organizations will continue to operate out of the same real estate footprint in light of COVID-19.

View the full survey data here or a more in-depth breakdown below.


Work from home status
A majority, 62% of respondents, stated that more than 75% of their workforce is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 8% have no workforce at home
  • 17% have less than 25% working from home
  • 13% have 25-75% working from home
  • 30% have more than 75% working from home
  • 32% have 100% working from home

When asked if their organizations have a return to work strategy, 83% of respondents stated their organization has a strategy in bringing staff back into the workplace.

  • 83% have a return-to-work strategy
  • 9% do not have a return-to-work strategy
  • 8% unsure if their organization has a return-to-work strategy

Approaches in returning to work
More than 40% of respondent’s organizations have already begun to transition employees back into the workplace. Another 46% of the respondents stated their organizations will begin to return to the workplace immediately, or within 1-2 months, after their facility is allowed to reopen.

  • 41% already began transitioning
  • 18% will immediately begin transitioning, once allowed
  • 28% 1-2 months after will begin transitioning, once allowed
  • 8% by the end of 2020 will begin transitioning
  • 5% likely in 2021 will begin transitioning

When asked if their organization is considering transitioning a portion of their staff to work from home permanently, 33% responded affirmatively.

  • 33% considering a portion of staff to work from home permanently
  • 47% not considering a portion of staff to work from home permanently
  • 20% unsure

Organizations have pivoted to a hybrid model of in-person and remote workforce in the wake of COVID-19. More than 58% of respondents state their workplaces will be a hybrid of in-person and remote work post-COVID-19, as opposed to only 28% implementing that strategy before COVID-19. Approximately 40% of respondents stated that pre-COVID-19 their organization had a few remote employees as possible, while 40% also responded that post-COVID-19 their organizations will have as many remote employees as possible.
Respondent’s organizations have a variety of approaches in bringing employees currently working from home back to the workplace. Of respondents, 35% stated that their organization will require employees to return to the workplace in some capacity. Another 28% stated their organization is allowing the employees to choose.

  • 14% required to continue to work remotely full-time
  • 35% required to return to the workplace in some capacity
  • 23% required to return to workplace full-time
  • 28% employee’s choice

Implementing safe workplaces in light of COVID-19
As employees are brought back into the workplace, organizations are taking a variety of steps in operations to ensure safety. The majority of respondents stated their organizations have already or are in the process of the following: bringing back employees in phases (66%), restricting the number of people on site (66%), or limiting on-site movement (61%). Fewer respondents indicated their organization has in place or is implementing staggering employee workdays (42%) or staggering shift start times (34%).

  In Place Implementing Considering No Total
Bringing back employees in phases 43% 24% 20% 15% 100%
Restricting number of people on site 45% 22% 18% 17% 100%
Limiting on-site movement 39% 21% 15% 24% 100%
Staggering employee workdays in the workplace 24% 18% 22% 37% 100%
Staggering shifts start times 20% 13% 16% 51% 100%

Real estate impacts
Nearly 70% of respondents anticipate their organizations will be able to continue to operate out of the same real estate footprint in light of COVID-19. The remaining 30% anticipate the ability to operate with a reduced real estate footprint.

  • 68% continue to operate out of the same footprint
  • 30% likely be able to operate with a reduced footprint
  • 2% need more real estate to allow staff adequate spacing

Spend on return to work safety measures
As organizations implement changes to their workplaces, the costs organizations will incur vary. Nearly 50% of respondents stated their organization will be spending less than $10,000 in preparations to bring back employees into the workplace.

  • 49% less than $10,000
  • 11% $10,000-$25,000
  • 9% $25,000-$50,000
  • 4% $50,000-$100,000
  • 10% $100,000 or more
  • 17% unsure

Actions implemented for transition back to workplaces
As organizations transition employees back to the workplace a variety of actions will be implemented in ensuring safety in their workplace. Nearly 90% of respondents stated their organization will be purchasing personal protection equipment (PPE) for employees. Symptom screenings (73%) and temperature screenings (69%) also will be implemented according to respondents.

  • 89% purchasing PPE for employees
  • 73% symptom screenings
  • 69% temperature screenings
  • 22% contact tracing
  • 8% antibody tests
  • 8% none of the above

Survey Description

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Business Return-to-Work Survey was conducted June 3-17, 2020 via SurveyMonkey, receiving responses from 167 respondents. Respondents represented a cross-section of industry and firm size.

Respondents by Employee Count

  • 69% less than 100 employees
  • 14% 100-250 employees
  • 10% 250-1000 employees
  • 7% More than 1,000 employees

Respondents by Industry

  • 23% Professional Services
  • 15% Nonprofit
  • 13% Automotive/Mobility
  • 6% Banking/Finance
  • 5% Manufacturing (non-automotive)
  • 5% Government/Education
  • 32% Other: including health care, construction, real estate, logistics, entertainment, retail, energy, and hospitality

View the full survey data here.

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