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Assessing the risks of returning to the office

As the COVID-19 crisis enters its sixth month around the world, property managers are beginning to adapt to the “new normal.” To prepare for the re-opening of businesses, employers are reassessing health and safety protocols, and workers are being phased in to protect the physical distance between people.

In the United States, many companies aren’t planning for a return to the office until after Labor Day, and some companies such as Twitter, will allow workers to work remotely indefinitely.

In the July/August issue of the Journal of Property Management, we’ll be taking a close look at the way office layouts influence not only the chance of spreading viruses, but also worker productivity.

One additional idea to consider is how liability will be shared not only in office spaces, but with remote work.

For example, would and should employers be responsible for work-related accidents that occur to a remote worker at home? If there are clear guidelines on what constitutes residential and office environments, does compliance with forced remote working override such guidelines to protect both the employer and the employee?

What about on-the-job conflict that would otherwise have been better resolved through face-to-face contact, but could now be left to fester through an unproductive series of emails open to interpretation? With remote working, we can no longer hear tone of voice or read body language.

Employers will need to balance accommodations without discrimination. Research from Graziano Onder and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March 2020 suggests older employees and employees with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and malignancies should be allowed to work remotely until the pandemic dies down completely.

However, workplaces must treat all workers fairly, and give each the opportunity to return to office spaces.

Property managers have tremendous experience evaluating workplace environments, as the work they do encompasses everything from basic maintenance to management of human resources and insurance negotiation. I’m confident IREM members and the real estate industry at large are equipped to handle these concerns.

Sam Azasu Sam Azasu is an Associate Professor of real estate and an educational developer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. His research work which includes corporate real estate management and employee reward management has been published in European and American journals, with experience that spans Sweden, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Ghana and South Africa.


Dr. Yomi Babatunde Dr. Yomi Babatunde lectures project management at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He’s an editorial advisory board member of the TQM Journal, a registered member of the Society of Project Managers in Singapore, a fellow member of the American Academy of Project Managers, and a board member of the Construction Management Foundation in South Africa.


Sure, I'd be happy to! Hi there! I just read your blog post on assessing the risks of returning to the office and I found it to be very informative. As someone who is concerned about the safety of returning to the workplace during the ongoing pandemic, I appreciate the thought and care you put into your analysis. I found your emphasis on the need for a comprehensive risk assessment to be particularly valuable. It can be easy for organizations to overlook potential risks or assume that everything is under control, but a thorough evaluation of the situation is critical to ensuring the safety of everyone involved. I also appreciated your discussion of the importance of communication and transparency in the process. By involving employees in the risk assessment process and keeping them informed of any changes or updates, organizations can build trust and confidence among their staff. I also found your recommendations for mitigation strategies to be very practical and actionable. From implementing social distancing measures to providing personal protective equipment, there are a variety of steps that organizations can take to minimize the risks associated with returning to the office. I appreciate the way you provided a range of options for different types of workplaces, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem. Highly Recommended to all. For More Information Please Visit:


Very good question raise regarding liability for work-related accidents that occur to a remote worker at home.


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