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Getting back to work involves more than just unlocking the doors

By Jay Schulman

The "new normal" requires helping employees and customers feel at ease

Businesses are starting to have conversations about when they will be able to reopen. How do companies ensure employees and customers feel comfortable coming back? Given that current estimates show that social distancing will be necessary for the next two to 11 months, it’s important to plan.

Below, we look at a few business environments and how they may have to adjust operations in the future:


Grocery stores have remained open and present a good model for how most retail establishments will need to adjust. Many grocery stores have made their aisles one-way for foot traffic to reduce congestion, and other types of retail establishments will need to adjust their layouts and potentially create one-way configurations as well. Expect grocery stores and other higher-volume stores to allow for shopping reservations which would allow shoppers to shop at a predetermined time.

Additionally, the retail checkout process will need to be adjusted. Increasing the use of touchless transactions — often using Apple Pay, Google Pay or other apps — will reduce the back and forth between the cashier and customer.

Employee interaction with everything in the office space — door handles, light switches, countertops, copy machines, TVs, coffee makers and all other communal items — will need to be rethought.

Jay Schulman


Process changes will also need to happen inside the warehouse environment. Often, drivers arrive with paper in hand that needs to be signed, picked up or otherwise used by warehouse employees. The process needs to be modified to readjust driver and employee interactions, including defined responsibilities for both the driver and warehouse personnel. Lunch and rest areas, along with bathrooms and office space, will need to be evaluated to help ensure employees are able to safely maintain distance.


For many years, the density of office space has continued to rise. Often, cubicle rows line the floors and the height of cube walls has been lowered to create a more open layout. The open layout inherently poses challenges to helping people feel comfortable moving forward.

Office floors will likely have one-way walking paths as well as separate entry and exit doors where feasible. Employee interaction with everything in the office space — door handles, light switches, countertops, copy machines, TVs, coffee makers and all other communal items — will need to be rethought.

Conference room size will need to be reduced, while small team or huddle rooms might be converted into offices. Potentially, some cubes may be blocked to create more distance between employees. Shared offices or workspaces will need cleaning procedures and thinking through what lunch time looks like in the building will be important.

Most challenging will be common spaces, which are often controlled by the management company. Preventing backups, determining where to stand while waiting for an elevator and how many people can go into each elevator will all be issues that need to be addressed. What may result is a coordinated effort to stagger arrival and departure times of bigger office buildings to reduce the likelihood of logjams.

Federal, state and local authorities will dictate whether temperature checks are necessary, face masks are required, and how many people can meet together. However, individual companies will need to figure out how to implement those requirements in their workplace and, more importantly, how to make employees and customers feel comfortable coming back in order to work and shop.

Jay Schulman is a Principal at RSM US LLP. You can reach Jay at jay.schulman@rsmus.com or 312-634-3484.

Jay leads the Great Lakes security and privacy risk consulting practice. With over 20 years of experience in the information security field, he has led, managed and executed in a variety of security projects, including application security assessments, architecture reviews, security testing, regulatory compliance, security governance and risk management.

Featured image at top: Mike Petrucci/Unsplash

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.

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