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Returning to the Office: What to Know

Posted August 19, 2020 By Convene

To return to the office or not—that’s the question on everyone’s mind. Some teams are eager to move back into a shared workspace, as in-person collaboration feels essential to their success, while others are content with their rhythm of remote work. Though the way we utilize office spaces has drastically changed, there is a shared understanding that the need for offices will never become completely obsolete. But now, businesses across all industries are trying to determine not only if or when they might return, but how

Whether you’re contemplating returning to the office soon or continuing remote work through the end of the year, there are an array of options available to ensure that your team feels safe—both physically and psychologically—and equipped to do their best work. From redesigning spaces to accommodate necessary distancing to continuing a mix of remote work, businesses can tailor their transition back to the office to align with their working styles and goals—and strike a balance between normalcy and safety.

For Tarveen Forrester, Tastemade‘s People Operations Director, who has a worksuite at Convene’s 311 W. Monroe location in Chicago, as well as an offsite production studio, remote work initially bonded her team in new and exciting ways. “While being at home and away from each other is tough, the experience of all of our global teams being in a very unique situation and experiencing the pandemic together has created unique connections,” Forrester shared. “This has also created stronger connections among our leadership team as we meet more often.” But as a video network that provides food and travel-related programming to online audiences, Tastemade’s content and culture thrives on in-person experiences. And though her team devised new ways to stay connected—like sharing life updates through weekly newsletters—with offices spanning the globe, this switch to remote work had a widespread effect. 

Ultimately, Forrester knew it would be important for her team to resume working onsite in the near future. But her approach to this transition has been defined by flexibility, and, as she calls it, being human first. “People’s lives have been impacted tremendously, and we want to find ways to support our employees, no matter how unique the situation,” she said. By implementing detailed protocols, plus only having select team members return to the studio, Tastemade is able to do just that. 

The day-to-day at Tastemade’s studio now looks a bit different with regular COVID testing, daily screenings, mandated distancing for both staff and crews, plus routine sanitizing. But with all of these updates, Forrester’s team is able to focus on the task at hand and remain confident that all necessary precautions are being taken. Plus, Tastemade’s gradual return to the office also protects the psychological safety of its staff by underscoring that they really are leading with a “human first” perspective. 

For Billy Merva, the Managing Partner of executive recruiting firm Arrow Search Partners, the impact of working remotely was undeniable—as were the benefits of bringing his team back together. “As we place candidates in jobs across a wide array of industries here in New York and beyond, our business was hit significantly,” he shared. And in an industry built on forming relationships, remote work made his employees’ jobs even more complex. “Initially it was a challenge for our business and our team as a whole.”

Though his team incorporated more Zoom and phone meetings to their regular communication, the result simply couldn’t compare. “Our company really runs on a dynamic, fast-paced environment,” Merva said, “and working from home, that is really impossible to replicate.” Though he and many of his employees were eager to get back to the office, they wanted to do so as safely as possible, and Convene’s New York location at 530 Fifth  Avenue gave them a space to do just that. 

In accordance with current health measures, Convene has implemented updated health and safety protocols that include everything from partnering with Eden Health to provide screening and active monitoring to reducing capacity, and increasing sanitization. Maintaining its signature hospitality alongside these new standards, Convene combines premium experiences with a level of protection you and your team can trust. 

“There’s no panacea or silver bullet,” said Amy Pooser, Convene’s Global Chief Operating and Chief People Officer. “But we feel that we’ve been able to create a safety net, because there’s no one thing that is going to particularly guarantee safety.” Instead, Convene has set its sights on reducing risk and enhancing comfort to ensure that its workspace members feel both physically and psychologically safe on their premises.  

With all of these updates, Convene provided the perfect solution for Merva and his team at Arrow Search Partners. Working onsite at 530 Fifth  Avenue allowed them to collaborate in person and get back into their former rhythm—all in a well-equipped environment where they felt secure. “The office has been cleaned so thoroughly every day and the staff have been so fantastic,” he said. 

If you’re looking to transition back into an office space, but don’t have the resources to implement rigorous protocols, a flexible workspace that has instituted its own measures can provide a safe and productive alternative. And with a continued hybrid approach, you can balance both virtual and in-person work to establish a blend of collaboration that best suits your business needs. 

“At Convene internally and across the world, there is an increasing openness to flexible work,” Pooser shared. “We’ve been super excited to reopen in a way that allows our clients to do work in locations or in a hybrid of our locations and remotely.” 

As businesses weigh whether or not to return to an office, or in what capacity to do so, it’s important to create a plan that meets your unique needs and ensures that your team feels supported and safe. With the added value of virtual collaboration and the ease of flexible workspaces, a wide range of options exist to provide your company the space, services and community an office can provide—plus the physical and psychological safety this time requires. 


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