The Importance of Agility in Back to the Office Planning

In this Blog you will find:

What we have done with the Time & Space Media Office to operate during COVID19
What has and has not worked for us
What we anticipate for the future

While the Time & Space team was able to work remotely during the quarantine period, we knew it wouldn’t last forever. When the conversation turned to how we were going to open the office safely, it was going to have to be a lengthy and detailed process. We, however, are very fortunate to be located in Halifax, Nova Scotia and come July 2020 the province was able to stay under 10 cases at any one time and thus we were ready to take the big step in opening the office back up.

Planning the journey back into the office

We started this undertaking with extensive planning, and I don’t just mean a brainstorm, we broke out the office/building blueprints for this one. In creating this plan we had to put ourselves in the shoes of everyone who might set foot in our building whether it be staff, clients, mail people, NS Power meter readers, or other support people. Even if we knew they wouldn’t be part of our first phase of opening the office we took the time to map it out. We wanted to identify our hotspots; those spaces we needed to put signage to change behaviours or trigger a reminder, areas that needed to be altered to allow for 6 feet of distance, and where to put sanitizer.

the other is how many times we sanitize our hands

This wasn’t always so simple. There are places that you can’t limit daily foot traffic (washroom, kitchen, stairwell…) and we had to get a little more creative.

For example, we only allowed one person on a flight of stairs at one time or only allowed one person in the kitchen, and then once it was in practice, we couldn’t be shy to reinvent. If something wasn’t working, we tried again.

Almost more important than technical planning was the communications plan. People want to know what’s going on, and fortunately we were able to provide that for our staff. We communicated non-stop. We communicated about the status of the office in our internal newsletter, team meetings or general chat groups of Microsoft Teams. Sometimes we communicated about upcoming communications. All of this may seem like overkill but was highly appreciated by our staff and not a difficult practice to implement. I would say communication was the biggest success of opening our office and continues to be a critical factor in keeping our staff comfortable with coming in.

And while in the office, our signage was continuing that communication; we put it everywhere to trigger reminders to change behaviour. We also made an active effort to keep communication and signage fun. The situation was stressful enough.

Creative solutions in redesigning our space

If you recall from the blog post Culture and Innovation Without Walls, we recently renovated our office to include open concept desk spaces. This had to be completely reworked. I’m positive we moved every piece of furniture at some point once… if not twice, in the last year. We had to increase distancing between the desk for our staff’s safety and comfort, which meant decreasing the amount of desks in a certain space. This turned out to be a positive thing as we had the opportunity to redesign what our space was used for. Many on our staff are still doing more focused work remotely from home, and if they come in for meeting, team collaboration, or a change of scenery, we started hot desking for the desks that remained in the open spaces. Our meeting rooms also had to decrease in capacity so we saw the need to add more team meeting spaces. The space left over from removing desks in the open areas was transformed into a more casual meeting space.

Agility is the key to success

Once we got into the office, we quickly realized not everything we had planned worked in practice. That’s life. For example, we realized quickly that we needed more desks and we adapted by opening more bookable spaces that still allowed for distancing. We weren’t able to roll out our plan and wash our hands clean of it, because as situations changed the plans also needed to evolve. Flexibility has been one of our strongest assets so when the second wave of cases began to rise in Nova Scotia, we were able to work from home full-time with ease.

And with becoming a more digital oriented company, the need for more digitally oriented tools was also necessary. New TV’s on each floor allowed for touchless interfacing through casting options when pulling clients or staff into meeting spaces virtually. And new conference cameras made sure no matter choosing remote or in-office, our staff would feel included and safe. 

As the year progresses, we will continue to consider the needs of our teams and staff, how they work, and listen to what they are saying. The only way forward is to adapt and keep the space evolving as things continue to change in 2021.

Challenges will always pop up, like sourcing materials and staying diligent with our own safety rules, but our biggest success has been our willingness to change, adapt, and move quickly.