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NM offices look to reopen cautiously

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Employers around Albuquerque are starting to bring employees who have been working from home back into the office, but caution remains the priority as state restrictions start to loosen.

Earlier this week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced New Mexico will relax certain restrictions on businesses across much of the state starting Saturday, citing increased testing capacity and declining infection rates from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules allow nonessential businesses like offices and call centers to bring employees back into the office at 25% of their pre-virus staffing levels. The governor said offices should continue allowing employees to work from home where possible.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Mark Epstein, president and CEO of True Health New Mexico.

True Health New Mexico CEO Mark Epstein (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

To help the balancing act along, the health care organization has assembled a task force to help determine how to bring workers back to the workplace safely. Epstein said the company plans to send out a survey gauging employees’ concerns about returning to the office. So far, he said he’s heard from employees who are comfortable working from home, as well as some who are excited to get back to a more collaborative environment.

“There are times when the ability to simply walk down and have a quick conversation beats a Zoom meeting,” Epstein said.

The company is also looking at staggering employees’ schedules to make sure only a limited number of the organization’s 62 employees are in the office at any one time. Those who need to be in the office will be able to come back on a rotating basis.

True Health also will provide masks and put up barriers to protect employees when they deal with the public. Access to break rooms and bathrooms will be limited to a few people at a time.

Epstein said the company’s culture has shifted in the past two months.

“The environment’s changed, and we need to be able to react appropriately,” he said.

Intel Corp.’s Rio Rancho plant. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

Linda Qian, communications manager for Intel Corp., wrote in an email that the company’s manufacturing sites, including its Rio Rancho campus, also are staggering workers’ shifts and providing employees with masks and thermometers to monitor their health.

It is also bringing workers back in phases, according to a blog post from Intel Vice President Darcy Ortiz.

Even businesses that aren’t able to reopen to the public just yet are starting to bring employees back into the office. Defined Fitness can’t open its New Mexico gyms this weekend, but spokeswoman Maria Lamar said the company began phasing workers back into the office last week.

In addition to cleaning facilities and providing masks, the company is planning temperature checks for employees and gym members once facilities reopen.

“We’ve been extremely committed to the health and fitness of our entire community,” Lamar said.

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