We sat down with Gretchen Renz, CDFA, Business Manager for Bernardo Wills Architects, and asked her about the preparation process for the re-integration of our remote workforce.
What were your first steps in preparing a re-integration plan?
Believing that all of us are smarter than one of us, I hit the internet and started gathering resources. Based on that research, I surveyed our staff to find out how they were feeling about returning and learn what their return to work hot buttons were. I highly recommend this step! (Check out this sample survey from XMI.) The survey responses from our staff opened my eyes to their anxiety about returning and shifted our plan from the purely logistical– where to buy hand sanitizer and how to control in-office traffic patterns, for instance – to how to ease that anxiety. So now, in addition to a logistics-driven return plan, we’re updating our procedures for communication, file sharing, and culture-building during the months when we have staff working in the office and staff working remotely.
Do you foresee any permanent operational changes because of the pandemic?
I think one silver lining of the pandemic was that all our arguments against allowing remote work dissolved in the space of a week. Our staff was resilient and resourceful and were able to adjust. Of course, there were technical issues and emotional turmoil and equipment failures along the way, but by-and-large we’ve been productive and efficient. So, for us remote work is here to stay.
One of the consistent themes from the survey was that we need to strictly enforce our “stay home if you’re sick” policy. Again, this will be easier now that we have remote work options. We are also considering revising our PTO policy to separate vacation and sick leave banks so that people won’t come to work when sick to preserve their paid time off hours.
What technology resources have been the biggest help with communication and group comradery? Will they continue to be used?
We have relied on Microsoft Teams and Zoom heavily during the past few months, especially for team meetings and social events. We also developed an old-fashioned “phone tree” and checked in with staff members periodically. As convenient as messaging technology is, it has been important (and wonderful) to hear voices. It gave us a much better gauge of how people were coping with workload, isolation, and technology than just words on a page. I believe we will continue to rely on these tools even when we are all working on-site again. They are convenient and efficient (and fun.)
What can our clients and consultants expect of meetings when Spokane begins to re-open?
Reopening will not herald the end of the virtual meeting. We expect that in-person meetings will continue to be limited in both size and frequency and that meetings will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendees. In addition, the stay-at-home order has validated what we always suspected – that a lot of the meetings we typically have are not necessary at all.
UPDATE: On June 4th, Gretchen joined Tinderbox Marketing for Business Brew to discuss this topic in more detail. You can watch the full interview here: