What Will the Workplace Look Like? McKinsey and Company Weighs In

By Emily Kim

Recently, management consulting company McKinsey and Company surveyed 100 executives to understand how companies are handling the COVID-19 crisis. There are many components to this survey, but in short, McKinsey found that, ultimately, executives and employers alike want to return to work. Most notably, the company found that by the end of September, 80% of executives expect their employees to return to the workplace. By the end of December, this number increases to 88%. 

The first part of the survey discussed intervention methods to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. When considering executives who had already implemented certain measures or planned to do so, common responses included moving large gatherings online (98%), reducing employee capacity on site at a given time (85%), and restricting nonemployees from entering the workplace (84%). 84% of respondents also already revamped, or planned to revamp the spacing between individual workspaces to encourage social distancing. 

The next part of the survey discussed measures to identify and isolate COVID-positive employees. Again, when considering executives who already, or planned to, implement certain measures, conducting temperature checks was by far the most common at 77%. Contacting tracing measures followed suit at 55%, however, only 35% of respondents leaned towards regular diagnostic testing. Half of the respondents had no plans to implement this measure. 

Further into the survey, McKinsey noted some important insights regarding the use of PPE in the workplace. Most executives seem to be aware of the benefits of mask-wearing, with 86% of respondents already encouraging mask-wearing in the workplace, and 12% planning to do so. 

And in addition to these new intervention measures, executives are also aware of the need for strong leadership to guide their team through these tumultuous times. 92% of respondents have either already implemented, or are planning to implement, improved communication measures to keep their companies up-to-date with the latest news and to keep morale high. Many are also relying on their higher-ups to act as examples for the other employees, practicing good hygiene and adhering to their companies’ set guidelines. 

McKinsey’s survey illustrates how people are eager to return to work, and there are various measures being taken so that people can do so safely. However, it seems that COVID-19 testing is not getting the consideration it deserves. As mentioned earlier, only 35% of respondents already started, or planned to implement, regular diagnostic testing in their companies… and 50% had no plans to do so at all. But the deployment of a rapid and highly accurate COVID testing regimen could help companies greatly reduce the risk of an outbreak within their facilities.  Mask-wearing, temperature checks, and social distancing are all wise precautions to take, but only COVID testing can definitively pinpoint active infections. As executives prepare to welcome employees back into the workplace, it should not be a matter of “to test or not to test,” but rather which one. 

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