Adam H Schechter, CEO of LabCorp.
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- Testing giant LabCorp has provided COVID-19 testing results to millions of people since March 2020.
- In an interview with Insider, LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter shared that he anticipates most physical offices to reopen by June.
- Schechter shared the key steps employers should take when they’re planning to bring employees back to work.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Adam Schechter, chairman and CEO of coronavirus testing giant LabCorp, thinks it’s highly unlikely that corporate workplaces will ever return to normal, or to way they were before the pandemic. Schechter advises CEOs on safely reopening offices, he told Insider.
He anticipates physical offices will reopen in June.
The CEO predicted that most companies will reopen to a large degree by mid-summer, when more people are vaccinated.
But reopening during a global pandemic is a complicated process, and it’s normal for companies to be at different stages right now. Your strategy depends on how many cases of coronavirus are in your area, how much room you have in the office to implement social distancing guidelines, and the state of your employees, he added.
“I think the reopening process should be slow,” Schechter said. “I believe that it is possible to reopen, but be thoughtful about how fast you do it, and I don’t think you should have everybody go back at the same time.”
Here’s what every business leader needs to consider before reopening, according to Schechter.
Normalize remote work before contemplating reopenings
LabCorp’s laboratories, service centers, and offices have been open everyday since the coronavirus outbreak, but the company doesn’t have more than 10% of its staff in offices on any given day. Employees have the option to return to offices if they want to, but no one is required, Schechter said.
Schechter said he hates working from home, and that he’d much prefer to work from his office building. But he chooses to work remotely because he thinks it’s important for leaders to normalize remote work by modelling that kind of behavior.
“If I’m in the office, 20 other people will come to the office just because I’m here,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what I say or do, my employees will come to the office because they’d feel more pressured to show up.”
Acknowledge that people might not want to return to offices
Companies should be very open to the fact that people have different comfort levels toward reopening, Schechter said.
Even if you’re equipped to bring people back to the office, your workforce might not be ready for various reasons. Several companies that Insider has spoken including consulting firm Bain & Company and commercial real estate firm JLL, explained that gathering employee feedback was a key factor in determining reopening plans.
For example, JLL conducted company-wide surveys and posted daily questions to the company’s online portal everyday to address workers’ concerns regarding COVID-19. Overtime, the firm learned that the majority of their employees wanted to adopt a hybrid work model and return to offices in some capacity. As of October 2020, JLL successfully reopened nearly 140 North American offices and more than 200 international offices.
And amid the pandemic, Schechter said he tries to remind himself and senior leaders at LabCorp that everyone is being impacted differently. There are employees who have been in complete isolation. Working parents are struggling to juggle their job and their kids. Some employees have lost loved ones, he added. These personal events may very well play into their decision to return to offices.
“The key is to have compassion as a leader right now,” Schechter said. “You have to understand that your employees are struggling both professionally and personally, and people are each going through something different right now.”