The pandemic has already had a profound effect on the way people behave and how businesses operate. But as governments lift restrictions, many organizations are considering how to open their offices safely. As Accenture people return to the workplace, we are using the impetus behind our response to COVID-19 to rethink and plan for the future of work.
Backed by our overarching approach to business resilience, Accenture’s global IT and Corporate Services & Sustainability teams have collaborated to put in place a solution that enables a confident return to the workplace. As you can imagine, it’s not simply a case of unlocking the office doors. Neither is it appropriate to take a “one-size-fits all” approach.
Accenture’s real estate portfolio is complex and large, but with a commitment toward the safety and well-being of our people, a focus on the stability of client services and a phased, flexible approach, we carefully found a way to orchestrate a return to our offices.
Technology is fundamental to our approach. Whether taking advantage of automated, intelligent return-to-workplace tools, benefitting from the services of our valued partners such as Salesforce, or providing a central portal to plan an office visit for our clients, our IT and Corporate Services & Sustainability teams have created essential and dynamic solutions that ease returning to the workplace.
Based on what we have learned during the pandemic, we have taken the opportunity to reimagine the long-term operations of our business—rethinking existing processes and engineering new, more resilient, ones—in areas such as health and safety, facilities planning, travel and sustainability.
In short, Accenture has developed a globally organized, locally implemented evaluation and pre-approval process that serves the needs of our people and our clients as working environments adapt to the new normal.
"Accenture’s plan to return to the workplace relies on constant, compassionate communication with our people, making sure our work environments are safe and that we are resilient in the face of change."
— Margaret Smith, Senior Managing Director and Executive Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability and Business Operations, Accenture
When tech meets human ingenuity
There is little doubt the pandemic has radically changed the way we behave and is likely to have a profound impact on the future of work.
Health and safety has overtaken financial yardsticks in the eyes of employees and customers. Employers must take note and address the concerns of their people—Accenture Research shows that 82% of people are fearful of the health of others in the workplace and 64% are fearful for their own health. It is a workplace preoccupation beyond anything we have seen before.
Building on the business resilience framework already in place, Accenture has developed an organized approach to safely reopen offices. We’ve drawn on the skills of our global IT team and our Corporate Services & Sustainability team— experienced professionals who are responsible for a range of essential services, processes and tools representing many different corporate functions.
We created a plan for the long term that is adaptable for the short term. The plan involves engaging employees and customers to build trust and confidence; closing, reopening or scaling the capacity within our operations for safety, compliance and performance and reinventing our post-COVID-19 business. We have looked at the return to the workplace from the employees’ perspective, making the transition as smooth as possible using tools and technologies that are already familiar to our people.
To put these objectives into action, we took the following steps:
We designed a global framework to include key compliance and oversight activities such as leadership engagement, risk assessment, standards and controls, training and awareness and monitoring and audit activities. The framework provides a globally consistent approach that is governed centrally and executed locally; it is flexible and agile to support our business as we look forward to the future. We addressed the safety of our people, the security of our facilities and a continuity of client delivery and made sure all measures were a good fit with local circumstances. We recognized that we may need to return to work from home in the future.
We issued a comprehensive playbook. As part of our efforts around returning to the workplace we issued a Return to Office (RTO) playbook to local teams that includes protocols, checklists, talking points and processes for returning to both Accenture offices and client sites. Summaries of the playbook were created to be shared with clients, including a 100-point protocols checklist for the workplace. The playbook uses a risk-based approach and a hierarchy of controls to implement layers of protection for Accenture people entering the workplace and is regularly updated as new information is available. It outlines the RTO guardrails, how to promote consistent communications and make an office ready for people and visitors, the services to prioritize and when to react to protect people and protocols.
We worked with partners to create essential solutions such as our collaboration with Salesforce to extend its Work.com capabilities. The Return to Workplace (RTW) solution covers end-to-end engagement with various groups including the requester, approvers, workplace administrators and legal professionals. All the while, there is a seamless integration with multiple workplace applications to facilitate space reservation, check-ins and so on. Using Work.com, an employee can initiate a RTW request at an individual or team level, then seek approval, make reservations, initiate travel plans, take health surveys and check-in at Accenture offices using QR codes.
Enables workplace teams globally to manage office capacity around the world. Advanced analytics and business rules enable density and zone management and location awareness, while interactive dashboards interconnect to offer a range of support and services.
Helps all people to plan their office visit through an office visit portal.
Provides safeguards through wellness surveys.
Facilitates case management for Human Resources and Security teams to properly support COVID-19 cases.
We collaborated with local legal teams to define health and safety boundaries. We undertook due diligence, collaborating with legal teams in each country. Local legal teams review our processes and procedures in the context of their local requirements. These local requirements include the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and approvals by local works councils—the collaborative organizations that represent workers and complement national labor negotiations.
We coordinated our safety practices with those of our clients. Although we anticipate many of our people will continue to work remotely, we are coordinating plans around a needs-based return to client offices—whether a client site, our own offices or delivery centers. A rigorous process involves liaison between our clients and the documented safety protocols agreed being reviewed and approved by the Corporate Services & Sustainability team. We have collaborated closely with clients to:
Put the safety of people first
Determine when and how our people will return to client sites
Share location safety standards and protocols before our people return to client premises or clients are invited to Accenture facilities
Maintain the stable delivery of client services during the transition back to office
Accenture believes in taking a gradual and holistic approach to the return to the workplace, to promote employee health, safety and well-being. We ran three parallel workstreams with defined processes and approvals supported by training and communications to evaluate and approve an office opening, to prepare for office opening and to support the return of people to the office. And we took measured steps so that we could be confident in the outcome.
Drive the return to workplace based on business criticality. Prepare and communicate to employees.
Space and access management
Space reservation is prioritized based on business needs. Limited seating, required check-ins with health hygiene and distancing acknowledgments.
Office, health and safety protocols
Protocols for deep cleaning, temperature screening, staggered start, catering, kitchen supplies and signage standards.
Social distancing guidelines
Control flow at entry, exit and throughout. Mark lanes in high traffic areas. Unnecessary space cordoned off. Disable all common touchscreens.
Office and employee supplies
Provide disposable masks/gloves, sanitizer dispensers, disposal bins and thermal temperature readers, where needed.
Request to reopen office checklist
Coordinate with landlords. Establish vendor operations. Train support teams. Set visitor and delivery protocols. Handle cases and closures.
A valuable difference
In a period of high turbulence, it’s understandable that companies have concerns about changing their business operations to open their offices safely. Building trust and confidence with employees and customers is vital so that they all return, even if the situation isn’t quite “business as usual.” As our own CEO Julie Sweet has said: “Personal engagement remains essential for long-term success.”
With resilience in mind, Accenture has defined an actionable plan to create and maintain a safe work environment so businesses can stay open. Our experience has shown which tools and techniques can help and the data and technology to make it happen. Along the way, there is an opportunity to adapt the business and unlock new opportunities to create new value for customers.
Return to office protocols established
Locations enabled with a digital check-in tool
Average annual reservations of workspaces and meeting rooms
Return to office learning activities completed
Meet the team
Senior Managing Director and Executive Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability and Business Operations