Return to the Office

At my office, we have a large cohort of essential staff who have been out in the field or providing onsite support for the duration.  I am not one of them.  For 14 months, I've been working from my 600-square foot apartment. Yesterday I returned to our 42-floor tower for the 1st time since March 17, 2020.  Here are my take-aways from day 1 back:

1.  Stress Test Your Commute:  In NYC the commute is almost always stressful. Even if your mode of transportation is the same, the schedule, rules, your acclimatization and fellow commuters' moods have changed.  Take that commute at your normal time to assess the environs. 

2. Many "Return to Work Checklist" items can be struck:  Last year this time, the Legal Ops Team compiled a list and has maintained it since.  Over the past year, with time to ramp up, our well-run company has the bases covered.  Kudos to the HEARST Facilities, Communications and Technology teams for excellent preparation.  A few examples:

  • Clearly-marked designated traffic routes to avoid personal space intrusion.
  • Branded health policy banners in the elevator lobbies; professional signage in the pantries and bathrooms.
  • Installation of hand sanitizer dispensers inside entrances, upgraded beverage equipment (reduces elevator traffic), and, yes, toilet lids in the bathrooms.
  • Complete revamping of the cafeteria to pre-packaged and server-provided items.
  • Updates run on onsite computers. 

3.  Mail Is of Minimal Concern (Item 2 Addendum): Most of the mail piled in my in-box was 3rd class mail dated November 2020 or earlier and went straight to the trash.  So did 80% of the paper in my office. A great mail room and good colleagues had distributed packages which were neatly stacked.  That said, we'll still order a few extra recycling and shredding bins for all that essential paper that may no longer seem so on full return.

4.  Not Checked Off:  

  • Web cameras:  Our team has older monitors without cameras, a security decision.  We installed web cameras, less expensive than replacing the monitors. The model selected has good resolution and a light that comes on when activated to address security.
  • Updated Conference Room Quick Guides: Neither of the preferred webinar tools pre-pandemic are still under contract.  Our quick guides need to be updated to reflect the new preferences. 

5.  Personal Supplies Kit: No longer accustomed to leaving my house ready for a full day away, for day 1 I found the following helpful -

  • Building ID card
  • Powercord for mobile phone
  • Double A batteries
  • COVID-19 vaccinated pins
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tape measure
  • Blue painter's tape 
  • Insulated mug 
  • Matcha packets
  • Personal air purifier
  • Extra masks 

6. Re-establish an Office Routine: Even if your legal team is not set to return for months, as an ops professional re-establish a return routine early.  If not every day, plan to go in once a week / 2 weeks / month.  Observe and reflect carefully each time you go in to refine your own new routine and think through what you can do to ease your colleagues' return. 

FINAL TIP: Take a picture of the backdrop when at your desk to use when you are away from the office (Thank you, Tony).