Gray Manufacturing

Gray Manufacturing moves around office spaces in order to bring back employees and keep a safe distance. The company decided to have all employees work from home on Fridays to air out the building for 72 hours.

COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. To help our community combat the outbreak, we are providing this content for free. For an interactive map and continuing coverage click here. Please consider supporting our efforts in providing local coverage by subscribing to the St. Joseph News-Press.

For the past two months a large number of St. Joseph’s companies could manage employees working remotely, but now strategies have begun to bring individuals back into the office.

There are variations of methods companies are taking, but leadership at Clifton Larson Allen have decided to take a phased approach, bringing back 40% of their employees on Wednesday. Matt Robertson, a principal at CLA, wondered how they’d decide who to bring back first, but a majority of employees didn’t want to come back yet.

“People are nervous about the virus and we are opening at less than 50% capacity and that’ll be for a month’s time,” Robertson said.

Robertson said some employees are on edge about coming back in case of another outbreak in the coming weeks, but many also have gotten used to working from home.

“People have their offices in their houses and they’ve learned to be efficient and now having to go to an office and work is a big change, which is surprising,” Robertson said.

Another reason for the phased approach is to be able to change the office layout, and Robertson said when people come back they might not be working in the same area. Those who have offices have to work with doors shut during the first phase.

“So many things in the office seem like you’re still working remotely, so staff might think what’s the difference if I just continue to work from home,” Robertson said.

Meetings with clients and larger groups will still remain online, and the company requires employees to wear masks when they’re not at their desks.

Gray Manufacturing is following similar procedures by rearranging office space, but Todd Michalski, vice president of sales and marketing, said they’re allowing anyone to come back who wants to.

“We’ve staggered start times, breaks and lunches to keep people separated that way,” Michalski said. “If you’re not comfortable coming back and you’d prefer to work from home for the foreseeable future, you can do that.”

Michalski said it’s been good to get people back into the office because of the social aspect, but they’re still cautious by providing masks for anyone who wants one and taking temperatures before people enter the building.

Gray leadership also decided to only have employees work in the office Monday to Thursday, and Fridays will be at home.

“Research shows that the virus can only survive 72 hours, so if we leave Thursday afternoons and come back Monday mornings the whole place has an airing-out time,” Michalski said.

Michalski said one aspect of working remotely is it has helped the company realize is that if another outbreak happens or the office needs to be cleared again, work can still be efficient.

“I think all of that planning is in place and it’s basically a flip of a switch and we’re all remote again,” Michalski said.

Robertson believes that even after things calm down and a vaccine comes, the new changes in the work environment will continue to stay.

Bailey Ketcham can be reached at