Getting back to the office

Over the next few months, the time will come for many to go back into the office after working from home since March. With so many unique situations, this may bring a mixture of emotions, mainly a concoction of excitement and apprehension.

We’re a close-knit bunch that thrive on collaboration, so after five months of enforced remote working, we were delighted to welcome some of the team back into the office.

So far it has been a huge success and our phased return will continue over the coming weeks, but how did we get to this point? If you’re getting your team and office ready to return, I hope reading about our approach will prove useful and provide some reassurance.

Gauging interest

With such unprecedented circumstances and everyone adapting to the new normal in real-time, getting a sense of how every single member of our team were feeling was essential.

On top of the multitude of day-to-day initiatives the team created to keep in regular communication, we ran regular surveys to get first-hand feedback on the mood in the camp, and used the results to steer our decision making.

As the government started to provide some clarity on timelines the time came to bring the office into the mix of questions.

The responses at this stage revealed that almost a third of the team were actively interested in getting back as soon as it was safe. That was our cue to start putting things in place and pencil in a date to work towards. The first week of August, outlined by the government in early June, gave us enough time to prepare and implement all the necessary measures while also allowing the teams enough time to prepare for a return.

To work out the maximum capacity, allowing for the two-meter rule, we adopted WeWork’s (our landlords) social distancing framework of using their desks as a guide.

This provides ample distance and allows 40% of the team to work with no one sitting directly opposite nor adjacent to one another. We moved some desks around to create plenty of walking space, too.

Once we had the capacity confirmed, we again surveyed the entire team with the following questions:

  1. Would you like to work from the office, in some capacity, from the 1st of August?
  2. If yes, how often?
  3. If yes, do you have preferred days?
  4. Please let us know of any concerns or worries around getting back to the office?

At this stage, everything had to be completely elective – driven by the individual and their comfort levels.

The response revealed more interest, with 39% wanting to return. And although this was towards our upper limit, it also meant there was no need to create workplace bubbles. We were able to use the majority’s preference and confirmed Wednesday the 5th of August as our trial day.

Setting up

Now that we had the date and attendees, it was time to make sure the office was going to be safe for them once they arrived. Using the published Government’s guidelines and conducting a COVID-19 specific risk assessment, we made a few checks and adjustments including:

We also felt it important that those heading into the office were fully aware of what to expect when they arrived and what they could do to help.

During the weeks leading up to the trial day, they were given detailed information as a group on all the changes made, given advice on how to stay safe on their way in as well as throughout the day, and also shown the plan of action in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, either within the in-house team or the building.

Travelling in

One of the major concerns revealed in our surveys related to travel. And although we weren’t able to control the transport networks, we had proactively adapted our working hours ahead of time to allow for flexibility both at home and on any commutes. As commuting numbers start to increase, we’ll continue to work with them to find a suitable solution for their individual situations.

For now, the team working from the office will increase their days over the coming weeks if they wish to – again, driven by them. And we hope to have the majority of the team back in before the end of the year. However, we’ll keep monitoring the guidance and work closely with the teams to do so in a way that works best for everyone.

Safely and comfortably

For us, the most important thing throughout this ongoing process is to make sure our team feels safe and comfortable. Safe to return to the office if they want to, comfortable to say if they are not yet ready. Safe when in the office and comfortable to say if they’ve changed their mind and wish to return later. The only way to truly understand how they’re feeling is to ask, and so we did. Luckily, we’ve had some lovely feedback:

It was a really good day in the office yesterday. Couldn’t fault it. The instructions were clear throughout, and it was lovely to see everyone.

Emily Rodgers, Digital Copywriter

It was great! Meeting people and having that face time was really useful, well worth getting up an hour earlier for.

Gary Stubbenhagen, Senior Analytics Manager

While this is initially promising, we’re making sure to continually check in and ensure everyone feels empowered with their decision to either head back in or stay at home.

We hope that reading this has given you a bit of the inspiration you might need to not only get back to the office but do so safely and comfortably.

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