Thoughts From Our Team on Returning to the Office

08 June 2020 / By Mike Gunderson
Reading time: 8 minutes

We asked our team to anonymously share their thoughts and feelings in considering a return to the office. The responses ran the gamut and we found them so insightful that we wanted to share:

Without having seen a plan or different options, I’m not sure what questions I would have until a layout was put forward. A preference would be to work a full day at the office instead of a half day because commuting to and from the office would be disruptive to getting in the groove of working if it’s only being in the office for 3–4 hours. I would also hope the plan would address or provide clarity for whether it is still okay to continue to work from home for the person’s level of comfort, familial obligations, etc. until everything else starts opening up. Will the plan also address how communal facilities such as bathrooms and meeting rooms be treated? My last concern is opening up too soon since we’re already more or less adjusted to working from home after 2 months, but I don’t know what the right time would be either pending local restrictions and infection curves.

I’m concerned about going back before we all feel safe and comfortable enough to do so. I’m concerned for those who won’t have childcare solutions. I’m concerned about the leap of faith it will take to get back in a room together. I am eager for the day we can be back in the office, but not if it means we can’t be in conference rooms together, eat lunch together, and generally move about without worry or fear. Right now I think we have more intimacy on zoom calls than we could wearing masks and standing far apart. I am so happy that everyone can do their job at 100% from home and that it’s been working pretty seamlessly this way. Perhaps those who benefit from being in the office can do so on a voluntary basis? I know you guys will come up with a good plan for us, it’s all just hard to wrap my mind around!

My main concern is—I know where I have been and possible exposure I may have had (which is minimal) but not knowing the extent of social distancing my co-workers are or are not practicing is scary. 

When we do return to the office—staggered days w/ minimal staff on those days would be wise. I think we really need to be aware of our surroundings and be responsible for our own individual space as far as cleanliness and disinfecting. I don’t think it should be any one person’s responsibility and disinfecting common use spaces should just become part of each person’s routine when they are finished in those areas- ie. wiping down countertops and coffee pot handles in the kitchen, door handles in the restroom, etc . Being in the “at risk” category makes it a priority for me to be watchful of anyone that comes to the office not feeling well. I will admit I am guilty of going to work when I have not felt my best but I will be looking at that in myself and others a lot differently in the future. I know this is not going to be an easy task and the decisions made will be in the best interest of the company. I do miss laughter and office conversations and lunch gatherings and shared baked goods and our GD family.

Before I reply I just want to say that I’m definitely someone who wants to go back to the office. I don’t want to work from home forever. I miss it!

But the things that I miss about being in the office are the camaraderie and being together with our awesome colleagues. I miss joking around in the conference room before a staff meeting, going to lunch, sitting around the kitchen table, crowding around the counter looking at creative, standing at someone’s computer collaborating.

If we can’t do the things that make being physically together in the office worthwhile, I don’t see the point of going back to the office until we can. We’re working great remotely, and for the minor challenges we do have I don’t think merely being in the office without being able to be close together to collaborate will help alleviate them.
While I like and respect our colleagues, I don’t think everyone operates with the same vigilance about social distancing or disinfecting and that’s just going to add more stress to an already stressful situation. 

Finally, I can’t imagine trying to talk on the phone with a client with a mask on my face—or worse yet having a video call with them while wearing a mask! How would that even work?

All in all, I think people who are comfortable going back to the office can be allowed to once SIP lifts, but people who aren’t comfortable shouldn’t have to. I think it can, and should, be as easy as that until we have the vaccine and can lift some of the social distancing measures.

I have concerns about returning to the office primarily because as things begin to open up it’s very likely there will be a spike in cases. Also, as each of us socializes in our private lives then comes into the office, it increases the chance of exposure for each of us. There are things we can control in the office, but there are lots of things that we are unable to control, unfortunately. That being said, I trust that the executive team will do everything necessary to keep the team safe.

The culture of working together is strong; but I am fearful that in such a small office and enclosed area—working for 8 hours or more together—there is a chance of the virus spreading around if someone is asymptomatic or becomes ill. It would de-stabilize the business and of course, I do not want anyone to be seriously ill or die. I am concerned not everyone can or does take the necessary precautions outside of the office.

Will I need to wear a mask the whole time I’m there? Just in meetings? Will there be mask rules? If someone gets the covid virus will we be shut down again?

The only worry I have is too many people in the office at any given time, and everyone piled in a conference room together. I think only the bullpen should be used and conference rooms off limits; we should utilize the phone booths only to keep exposure to a minimum, and have the person using it wipe it down with cleaning wipes after use. A rotation of staff every day or week would be good. two people in one row on both ends, and one person in the middle of the next row would help minimize exposure.

No real questions or concerns. However, the thought of working in a mask makes me very reluctant to return to the office. I’d rather continue to WFH, until it is okay to be in the office without one.

Wondering if it would make sense to stagger folks in the office and limit it to a certain # of people per day? At least to start.

Where do I begin?

close proximity- the dividers don’t come out of the desk into the walkway, so i’ll still be within close proximity to my neighbors when i need to chat. And the phone booths???? what?! That’s going to take a bit more cleaning…. and the meeting rooms, only 2 people in a meeting room? I’ll need to eat at my desk? Do I shout across the room if I want to have lunch with someone else? It’ll be 100 degrees outside, so no picnics. Where do I take a client call? again- the phone booths? those don’t seem clean. And the wellness checks? who is doing those? It seems like a lot of added stress to commute and not be able to take a client call in silence without scrubbing the surfaces or have lunch with my friends, or even do a creative review properly. I can’t just go into someone’s office or walk up to a desk and make the person drop everything and pay attention to me… I feel like a zoom call is more personal at this point. 

daycare- not sure when daycare is reopening. And we split daycare days with grandma days…. I’ll probably have to choose 1 or the other for a while and it’ll be grandma… I can’t have my child going to daycare 3 days a week then to grandma’s, but grandma only is part time, so that’s an issue if I need to go into the office 5 days a week. 

And they are saying bathrooms are now one of the worst places….. and wearing a mask all day?! And remembering to be courteous of others spaces and cleanliness…. 

Yes, there are times being together is WAY more efficient, but it also just seems to be an added stress and silliness to make it happen. 

I know you guys are trying, but it seems like a nightmare to make sure all the rules are being followed.

And are we even allowed to bring outside stuff in the office? Daycares will not allow anything from the outside world in when they do open. 

I can go on and on. I’m really not a germaphobe, however constantly remembering to clean up my germs may be a problem. It is this more of a: “it’s not you, it’s me” type thing? I don’t want to be Downer Deb, but at this point, I feel like, what’s the point?

I miss our team and the socialization of the office, but I worry that there is a large variance in how seriously people are taking the shelter in place as well as general precautions. I worry that people feel obligated to return to the office after one day when they’re sick with a common cold. This virus has a long incubation period, so I’m concerned people will be in the bullpen with a minor fever or cough unknowingly spreading it. Would we need to have someone in charge of wiping down all of the surfaces that may be touched by multiple people and that is a constant disruption to someone’s workflow? Who would be responsible for that and does that make them more prone to exposure? 

I dislike the idea of having to wear a mask all day if there are multiple people in the office at the same time (how do you take a call on a cell phone, in an open space with a mask on? do you wear your mask when you’re on a video call?) and if we can’t be close to one another or share any space then I don’t see the point of going to the office when we have proven we’re able to work remote. Remote 100% of the time is not the ideal for us as employees or for the business permanently, but I think with the current situation, the need for masks in shared spaces and wiping down all the surfaces all the time, as well as the fact that our office is one big open space, I don’t like the idea of going back in any time soon.

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About The Author

Mike Gunderson

Mike Gunderson is the founder of Gunderson Direct, Inc., a direct marketing agency that helps businesses drive new leads and close more sales through traditional offline channels, especially direct mail.

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