More than half of U.S. employers plan to reopen operations by July 31, although workers will be returning to a changed workplace, a new survey shows.

The survey released June 9 by the Society of Human Resource Management shows 53% of employers will be back in business by July 31 after closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, while 17% are already open or never closed.

Nearly four in 10—39%—will have a phased-in reopening with critical teams returning first.

And 80% will be making workplace changes to make social distancing more feasible.

These include 78% that are removing or reducing shared workspaces, 71% adding floor markets or physical barriers, and 69% adding partitions between workers and/or customers.

Eighty-one percent are limiting on-site workers, 75% are staggering shifts, and 78% are reducing on-site customers.

In addition, 77% are adopting or considering contactless procedures, and 68% are implementing or considering touchless fixtures.

Remote Work Policies

But the random May 13-20 survey of SHRM member companies nationwide ranging from two to 25,000 employees shows that 45% of organizations have yet to set a return date.

More than half (52%) of larger companies—those with 500 or more employees—are least likely to have announced a return date, while 44% of small companies (1-99 workers), and 41% of midsize companies (100-499) have set a return date.

The survey also shows the pandemic has caused companies to reconsider remote work policies.

27% of companies are reviewing open positions to determine if they can be done remotely.

Some 68% say they probably or definitely will adopt broader work at home policies for all workers, including 73% of large firms and 66% of small firms.

One in four employers will allow workers who previously did not work from home to do so permanently, while 29% will allow workers to work from home through the end of 2020.

In addition, 27% of companies are reviewing open positions to determine if they can be done remotely, and 22% are modifying positions to be completely remote.

Other Findings

Other survey findings include:

  • 42% of organizations returning to work or that never closed have a plan for workers with childcare responsibilities
  • Over 60% have adopted or are considering safety measures for high-risk workers
  • Over 65% of companies plan to use video interviews of prospective employees more often
  • Over four of five HR professionals report their work has been especially crucial to their organization since the pandemic began