LSRPA Firms Cautiously Plan to Reopen
Tuesday, August 04, 2020 11:04 AM
By Candace Baker, LSRP, Langan Engineering

Now that New Jersey appears to be on the good side of the coronavirus curve, some LSRPA member firms are moving forward with plans to reopen their offices. The LSRPA talked to representatives of four member firms to get a sense of what their plans look like.

All four firms implemented a work from home policy in March for most or all of their office employees. As these firms try to resume some semblance of normalcy, they all stressed that employees can continue to work from home until they feel comfortable coming back to the office. Those firms that have already reopened report that many of their employees have opted to continue working from home for a variety of reasons.

Those coming back to the office at these firms must wear masks and practice social distancing with frequent hand washing. In addition, all of the firms have implemented additional sanitation measures for work stations and common areas.

AWT Environmental Services, Inc. is a full-service environmental contractor with an office in Sayreville. As a provider of emergency environmental services, AWT’s office stayed open on a limited basis throughout the pandemic. AWT’s approximately 15 full-time office employees adopted a number of procedures to maintain worker safety. For example, staff may visit the office on a rotating schedule so that no more than one person per department or office area is present at any given time. In addition, all meetings are being conducted via the internet or phone to avoid person to person contact. AWT plans to continue these practices going forward. However, as more staff return to work, AWT will implement a daily questionnaire for each employee to document their temperature and any symptoms they might be experiencing.

Scarinci-Hollenbeck, a full service business law firm, has offices in Lyndhurst and Red Bank staffed by 110 and 15 employees, respectively. The offices have been closed to the public since March. A few essential staff come in to handle mail, various office tasks, and IT issues. John Scagnelli, a Partner at the firm says that the offices probably won’t reopen for the foreseeable future. Staff may visit the office when necessary, but must first make an appointment. Scagnelli says, “As we have gotten used to working from home, I think a lot of people will be reluctant to go back to the office.  I think we will see a big change in the way service firms do business from now on.”

Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting firm, has 25 domestic and 2 international offices. New Jersey is home to Langan’s headquarters in Parsippany and a branch office in Lawrenceville, with 350 and 50 employees, respectively. Langan LSRPs also work out of two Pennsylvania offices in Doylestown and Philadelphia, with 85 and 75 employees, respectively. The Parsippany, Lawrenceville, and Doylestown offices recently reopened.  The Philadelphia office remains closed for now because of concerns with the use of mass transit for commuting. The reopened offices implemented a rotating schedule so that for now no more than 33 percent capacity will be reached on any given day. Employees who sit next to or opposite each other are scheduled on different days to reduce office density and maximize social distancing. Employees wear face coverings except when seated at their desks. Employees also use an app to fill out a daily questionnaire and take their temperatures before starting work. High-traffic areas were converted to one-way corridors and restrictions were placed on the use of common areas.

GEI Consultants is a multi-disciplined environmental and geotechnical engineering consulting firm with 40 offices throughout the United States including two in New Jersey: Bloomfield has a staff of 25 employees and Mount Laurel has a staff of 30 employees. Sharon McSwieney, the Branch Manager of the Bloomfield office, says that GEI has reopened its offices under a four-phase plan that will allow them to gradually ease restrictions in accordance with State and local orders. As part of the initial reopening phase, GEI has implemented a staggered employee schedule to ensure that only a small number of essential employees occupy the office on any given day. Staff are required to use a contact tracing app which includes completing a daily questionnaire to document any symptoms. McSwieney says, “Our staff are adjusting well to the new norm of operations and are focused on the safety of the employees and their families.”

Under normal circumstances, our industry has a strong safety culture, so it’s not surprising to see that our member firms have expanded their health and safety programs to include the newer coronavirus threat.

We are interested in how your firm is handling the pandemic. Please reach out to [email protected] and let us know of any innovative ideas you have for reopening.