How to Reopen Your Offices After the Pandemic

Your Checklist for Reentry

This post is part of a series aimed to help Office Managers, EAs, Admins and anyone whose job it is to focus on employee experience at their virtual/hybrid office.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

With a mad dash to get back into the office, you and your facilities team may be scrambling to make the office move in ready! So as not to waste any of your time with long prose and witty sentiments, let’s get right to it so YOU can get right to it.

Below you will see groupings of checklists to help you make sure you and your team are making the right decisions as employees start knocking at your door with aches of returning to work.

GATHER SOME DATA FIRST…

From a holistic stand point, you’ll want to figure out what you are working with. What do the higher ups want happening? But also, what sort of parameters are you working with? Gather that data first before you move on. See below:

Answers to get from the executive team:

  1. Covid-19 Policy: Work with the legal team regarding putting together a formal write up about what will be required when returning to work. Whether that is a waiver, a formal vaccination policy, mask policy etc.
  2. Remote/Hybrid Policy: Does your company want everyone to go back? Is it optional to go back? Do certain roles have the flexibility to work remote? Find a way to get some rough numbers so you know what you are working with.
  3. Reopen Date: Get a formal date on the calendar that is approved by your executive team before sharing the reopening date with the rest of the company. Figuring out the date itself may come down to you (once you see how much work needs to happen) and then propose that date to the decision makers.
  4. Special Requests: Do executives want to see some changes at the office before people move in? This could be anything from redoing conference rooms, getting touchless coffee machine makers, changing the floors and literally anything in between. Many people are using this break in time to make sweeping changes. Is that what will be on your plate? FIND OUT!

Answers you can seek out on your own:

  1. CDC Guidelines: The most up to date CDC guidelines for offices and state/city regulations that apply to the office you will be reopening. This will help you figure out space planning at your office as well as cleaning routines. Link help.
  2. Building: Reach out to your building team to find what changes they have made at the building since you were last there. See if they have any restrictions before you start moving back in (if you are a renter).
  3. Relearn the office: It has been over a year, so formalize yourself with the basics like: How many desks are there, how many conference rooms, what is the general state it was left in — broken appliances that need to be fixed? Expired snacks that need to be removed. IT equipment that needs to be updated?
  4. Create a survey: Send out a survey to all employees to find out how they plan to interact with the office. This is great if you work at a place that will be highly flexible to remote working.
  5. Dream Team: Gather the dream team that will be helping make the office reopen come to life. Plan regular meet ups and start discussing the above topics!

What is Your Food Philosophy?

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Before the pandemic your office may have had a full kitchen with snacks, beverages and a catered lunch. Depending on the amount of people coming back to the office or how your team is structuring a remote/hybrid work environment those offerings may change. Here are some questions for you to think on:

  1. Are more or less people coming back than originally worked there in February 2020?
  2. Do we want to have catered lunch? How will the lunches be served in order to stay safe?
  3. Will we have perishable foods in the fridge?
  4. Do we give a stipend for remote workers to expense their lunches?
  5. How will in person food offerings effect those that are working from home? Will there be an issue? What should the language be around this topic?
  6. Should we pair down our food and snack offerings?

Unsolicited advice: When it comes to planning how to fill your kitchens or how to prep lunch time, I would say tier the approach. Don’t start with everything all at once. Start with the basics. Drinks and light snacks, snacks that have a longer shelf life. Then as you learn your employees behaviors, start to remove or add things back. If you work at a large company where head count will not be an issue, this will be less of a problem to sort out.

Bringing back Vendors

Your go to checklist when you start to think about your vendor relationships:

  1. Reach out to your old vendors (Cleaning crew, snack vendors, plant waterers, day porters, evening porter, maintenance contacts, IT specialists etc). Let them know your plan for reopening and check the status of their business (pricing/closed down/new ownership etc).
  2. Sever contracts if you don’t want to continue with them anymore.
  3. Reach out to new vendors that you are interested in working with.
  4. Figure out budget (could be different if there are less people coming back).
  5. Solidify timelines the vendors need to in order to be ready by your move in day. (you may have to move the move in day if a vendor you really want to work with isn’t available).
  6. Get new contracts drawn up.
  7. Have contracts signed by appropriate teammates/managers.
  8. Set up installation dates/start dates for said vendors.
  9. Keep track of new vendor contact information, website sign in details etc. in a spreadsheet.

MAKE THE OFFICE MOVE IN READY

If you are changing up the way that people will interact with the office, now is the time to get the physical space to reflect that plan. Here at the Medium offices, we are moving to what is called: Hotel Desking. A way for the space to be fully optimized in which people do not have ownership over a desk, but book a desk every time they pop into the office. Check out this post to learn more about the nuance of Hotel Desking! ❤

Sample office layout from Lucid Chart

The Floor Plan

  1. Create a digital floor plan through Google Docs or Lucid chart. Or look back at your last updated floor plan. Use a software method that works for you so you can move along quickly.
  2. See who last sat at what desk before the office shut down.
  3. Mark desks in which those people are no longer with the company.
  4. Create a plan for returning items to people if needed (shipping/pick up).
  5. Set up floor plan to reflect what your team wants going forward (newly assigned desks or hotel desking).

Prepping for Cleanliness

  1. Check all kitchen appliances. Get them fixed, replaced, re-rented if needed.
  2. Remove all expired foods/coffees/snacks.
  3. Schedule a physical cleaning/removal day.
  4. Get junk removal scheduled.
  5. Find a storage unit if needed, if removing items from the office.
  6. Set up office space to reflect current CDC guidelines.
  7. Schedule a final deep clean before the office reopen.
  8. Print Covid signage to post around the office, or order signage from Uline.
Great to use for conference rooms or desks you do not want occupied.

Prepping for Success

You want employees to feel safe when they enter the building and the office so be sure to do the following:

  1. Put social distancing signage around the office (floor decals are awesome for that).
  2. Create a station at the office that has masks, wipes, hand sanitizers etc.
  3. Thinning out desks and chairs helps physically suggest that something isn’t available or an option. If you are planning to have people practice social distancing.
  4. Test out all technology (video conferencing) to ensure that the remote and in person experience is optimal for success. (Changing video conferencing set up, screen lowering, audio, cabling etc). Get your IT team involved.
  5. Make sure common areas where people mingle have clear signage about what you expect from them. This can include the kitchen, soft seating areas, group tables, bathrooms, conference rooms.

TEAM COMMUNICATION

Sharing the process and communicate to your team:

  1. 1–2 months before opening: Get the whole company excited by sharing the reopen date.
  2. 2–3 weeks before: Send out comms for what will be required of employees regarding masks/vaccinations/behavior.
  3. 1–2 Weeks before: Send a 1 pager with simple FAQs spelled out for the company to know ahead of time.
  • What people can expect when they return.
  • Remember to include things that have changed.
  • Accessing the building (people hired during the pandemic will need help accessing the building for the first time)

4. 1 Week Before: Send a round up of all essential information via email to everyone at the company about how the office will be utilized, how people can expect to work within the office and who they can reach out to for office questions.

5. 1 Day Before: Send get pumped up Slack reminders to the team and be there to triage questions that may come up.

6. GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND YOUR DREAM TEAM!

Need help with your office reopen plan? Feel free to thread questions in the comments and I will pop in with resources and help! Would love to also hear what others are going through as they work through the mire of unpredictability with their office reopening.

People Experience Manager at Medium. Currently writing www.meetingswithcake.com. COMING SOON!