It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since businesses had to shut their doors practically overnight. Office plants were left to fend for themselves as entire teams started working from home, many for the first time.
Now, with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway, we’re beginning to see signs of progress—and many businesses are feeling the pressure to rush to reopen.
But getting people back into the office isn’t a race. In fact, it’s not even a requirement. The safety and wellbeing of your employees must be paramount, and if you’re prioritizing your people, you need to give your approach to reopening some serious thought, especially since we aren’t past the pandemic yet.
At Wpromote, we’re approaching the question of how to reopen as one that’s not just about overall safety, but also about supporting our employees and making sure they’re working in an environment conducive to delivering the very best for our clients (and each other).
Recently, The Washington Post visited our office to learn more about how we’re balancing the benefits of reopening our offices with our employees’ need for a more flexible work-life arrangement.
It’s worth noting that we aren’t claiming to have a perfect solution or all of the answers to this question. But we do know that our amazing culture is powered by two-way feedback, and our team members thrive when their voices are heard. That’s why we are turning to our employees to help shape what a reopening will look like.
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We’re applying the same holistic, growth-minded mindset we use to get results for our clients to our office reopening strategy: partnering with our employees to understand what’s necessary and what’s nice to have, then acting with intention to create an even better, more connected, workplace.
Instead of thinking “return to office,” reimagine how we work
Early on in the pandemic, we introduced employee wellbeing surveys to get a better understanding of how people were feeling and identify concerns we needed to address and alleviate as everyone went virtual.
We changed our company policies and programs based on that feedback, shifting to virtual events, increasing flexibility for employee/family needs, extending wellness offerings, offering home office set-up stipends, among other initiatives.
Our employees have guided how we’ve pivoted over the last year—and it’s how we’ll continue to operate moving forward.
Through those same surveys, we learned that most of our employees want to come into an office 1-2 times per week in the long term. We decided to do a soft reopening of our offices in the short term, letting individuals have the option of working in the office, while leaving it to each team to decide what solutions best suit their needs (in-office, remote, or hybrid), with some general guidelines and best practices.
Instead of thinking “reopening,” redesign our workspaces
Our offices are about more than the design or architecture: they’re about creating a space that inspires our employees, partners, clients, and communities to always Think Like A Challenger and leave with a lasting positive impression.
So when we thought about how to reimagine our spaces for the post-COVID world, we realized there was an incredible opportunity to question our own assumptions about how people will be using the space and try to create something new.
We’ve learned that most of our employees plan on going back to the office at least some of the time—and that nearly all of our employees crave the connection, camaraderie, and innovation that come from gathering in person.
While we’re still at the very beginning of this process and exploring what might be possible, we’re welcoming ideas that will help accommodate a more hybrid style of working that isn’t necessarily based on almost everybody working in the office every day.
These future plans might incorporate more call rooms, smaller meeting rooms, and collaborative breakout spaces to foster the human connection that our employees are looking for. The way we work should define the space, not the other way around.
Prioritizing employee health and safety
While covid vaccination will play an important role in our road to reopening, there are still a lot of unknowns. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 49% of adults feel uneasy about returning to in-person interactions once the pandemic is over. Envoy reported that 66% of employees said they were worried about their health when thinking about returning to the workplace.
So, how can we provide much-needed peace of mind and ensure that our offices are as safe as possible?
We’re committed to embracing (and staying up-to-date on) health and safety protocols, including regular and frequent deep cleaning of our offices, maintaining physical distance, and encouraging face coverings.
Communicating with transparency and empathy
We expect a lot of questions from our employees. That’s why we’re thoughtfully planning how to make the “welcome back” experience as transparent, reassuring, and flexible as possible.
We’ll be sharing information and setting expectations about Wpromote’s new workplace environment through:
- Frequent updates from our CEO & Founder Mike Mothner and our People Operations (POPS) team
- Safety-focused online resources and guides
- Clear, strategic office signage, visuals, and more
While we never could have predicted over a year ago that this would be our future, we’re excited about the possibilities ahead and the opportunity to explore new ways of working, connecting, and cultivating success from anywhere.
At Wpromote, we’re looking to our most valuable asset—our people—to lead us into this new world.