“Should we still use the communal fridge?”
“How do we organize the desks?”
“Is this floor well-ventilated enough?”
These are just a few of the many questions company leaders must ask as they prepare for some of their employees to safely return to the office, whether that be in a few months or an undetermined time in the future. Finding a balance that keeps everyone safe, yet comfortable and productive, is a challenge tech teams around the country will have to grapple with as their workplaces open their doors again.
For People Operations Coordinator Francesca Vaccari, the answers to these questions can only be determined through open communication.
Vaccari said she and her team at B2B cannabis marketplace LeafLink have solicited frequent feedback from employees and leaders across the company’s six North American offices, and the people team is laying the groundwork with building managers to optimize safety prior to employees’ return.
The key to making the opening successful? Adaptability, Vaccari said.
Right now, the company is taking a segmented approach to bringing employees back. During phase one, staff will volunteer to return and those who opt in will be greeted with personal protective equipment (PPE) and staggered work schedules to avoid commuter traffic. As safety recommendations and infection rates change, so will LeafLink’s strategies to keep its workforce healthy, Vaccari said.
Some of the CDC’s office reopening recommendations:
- Install protective shields or barriers where social distancing isn’t possible.
- Limit capacity in high-traffic areas.
- Use indicators to show 6 feet of social distance.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces often.
- Exchange high-touch shared items like coffee pots and snacks with single-use alternatives.
- Put daily in-person or virtual health checks in place.
What are your current plans for returning to the office?
Our people operations team worked alongside company leadership to develop a comprehensive, tiered approach for returning to our offices. Employees will be given a 30-day notice before the first tier of return begins to accommodate any necessary travel. Attendance will be voluntary after reopening until 2021 to make sure everyone feels comfortable returning. We will subsidize a Citibike membership and implement flexible schedules to avoid peak commuting hours. Additionally, when entering the office, employees will be provided with personal protective equipment and a welcome kit that explains new guidelines. They will also be required to complete a self-assessment health questionnaire.
While our reopening is currently set for early fall 2020, we are prepared to be flexible with our tiered approach so we can adapt to any new updates from state and local officials.
Communication and transparency with the whole team will be integral to our success.”
What were the most important steps you took to develop this plan?
One of the most important parts of our reopening plan was figuring how to bring back a normal office routine after months of working from home. We hosted brainstorming sessions to help formulate a plan for adapting to the new normal and scheduled info sessions with employees across each of our offices. We also mapped out ways to avoid traffic in high-touch areas like the bathroom and worked closely with building management to incorporate COVID-19 guidelines.
How are you adapting to and preparing for the unknowns in safely returning to the office?
Returning to the office will be a collaborative effort. Communication and transparency with the whole team will be integral to our success. We hosted info sessions with employees from each office to go through our phased approach in detail and encouraged employees to ask questions. We emphasize employees to lean on our people team when challenges arise, and we can work out individual situations during the transition back to office life.