Employers implementing return-to-workplace safely plans must keep something else top of mind: it is not enough to make employees safe; employees must also believe they are safe.

In the early days of the pandemic, employees were encouraged to work from home. While millions couldn’t—health care providers, first responders, factory and warehouse workers, retail and restaurant workers, and providers of services such as gardening, construction, and hair styling, to name a few—millions of office workers could. Now that more people have been vaccinated and children are heading back to school, the challenge for employers is how to bring employees back to physical workplaces safely.

For some employers, COVID-19 has permanently altered their expectations about where their employees will work. Some have told all but a few employees they can work fully remote forever. Examples are Novartis, Slack and Twitter. Others plan a hybrid approach where employees will work part of the week at home and part in physical spaces. These include Ford, Google and Nationwide. While it’s unclear now how many employers will ask employees to return to physical workplaces full time when the time is right, there will be many.

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