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The Lessons We’ve Learned from Moving During a Pandemic

When we started this journey of moving and designing a new office back in 2019, we did not have “manage a global pandemic” on our to-do list.

We had started the planning process of moving offices, and doing a redesign to better fit our culture – we had been in the same office space for over 10 years and we were looking for a refresh - a space that really embodies the vibe of OneDigital – the “we’ve got your back” mantra.

As the pandemic hit in March and things started to carry over into April, the conversations started to turn into: what should we do? should we put the process on hold for a few weeks? should we scratch it all together? Our team had been really excited about this new project and really, what we all needed most during that time was something to look forward to. So, we continued on.”

Over the next several months, we worked with vendors virtually and socially distanced to keep the project moving forward. We leaned heavily on our architect and design team to help us modify our original design to ensure our employees would feel comfortable coming back into the office – including adding glass partitions between desks, swapping fabrics out for ones that were easier to clean, implementing a dozen “huddle rooms” where individual team members can grab a few minutes of privacy when needed, and of course, adding sanitizing stations throughout – all things we certainly wouldn’t have thought twice about before March 2020.

But, besides those simple tweaks, we learned a lot about the process and how we could ensure our team would feel safe coming back.

Here are my 5 key takeaways:

  1. Distance matters. One of the first questions you’ll most likely be bombarded with is: how far away is the new office? Even though many of us are still in a working from home environment, your team may need to access printers, files, office supplies, etc. Considering your employee’s commute will definitely go a long way. We kept our search in the same town and ended up only moving 6 minutes from our previous office!
  2. Communication & transparency is key. As with any large projects, your timeline will fluctuate multiple times. Keeping your team in the loop on where the move stands, including any deadlines that have been altered that directly impact their work, is extremely important. The more you can share, the more understanding your team will be when things change.
  3. Timing is everything. There’s never a “good” time to move and when you have a pandemic thrown into the mix, everything goes out the window. There are key things to keep in mind when you begin planning. Think about your “busiest” season – when can your team afford to be away from the printer or additional office supplies. You’ll also want to keep in mind how you can support your team if access to these supplies are not available – leveraging an office supply store to help with your printing needs for example.
  4. Having the right technology at your fingertips is a game-changer. We went from an office that had the same technology for over 10 years to a space equipped with Zoom rooms and HD automated cameras that follow the speaker. Over the past year, we’ve seen how heavily we’ve needed to rely on technology that would allow us all to stay connected. When going through your “wish list” of items for the new office, make sure you think about how you’ll continue to leverage technology even when everyone is back in the office.
  5. Be patient. As much as I wanted to show the office off to our team and have everyone back in on day one, I knew I that we had to mindful and patient of everyone’s comfort levels. We implemented a signup schedule that capped how many people could be in the office at the same time. Employees could select a timeframe that worked best for them and be able to see how many others were signed up as well. We’ve also hosted meetings at the office but included Zoom links to meet the needs of everyone invited.

This process was expensive, but it was a pivot that I think will pay us back in spades because when our employees are ready to re-enter the physical office space, they will feel safe and be excited to do so.”

If I were to summarize the entire process into one piece of advice, it’s this: remember who the office is for. Your people are your greatest asset, and you want to make sure that through this entire process you keep their needs in mind. You could create the most exquisite space, but if it doesn’t factor in the safety of your employees, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. When employees feel safe, they can concentrate on doing their best work and living their best lives.

This space also gives us the opportunity to support our local leadership and business associations who are looking for a space to host their meetings post-pandemic. As these associations are evaluating their needs, we can offer them a space that allows their members to socially distance safely while having the right technology at their fingertips to support those who are still working from home. Stay tuned!