Trying to figure out the best way to bring employees back to the office after COVID? Here’s how three firms are approaching the transition.
1. TIGHE & BOND
Employees: 430 Headquarters: Westfield, Massachusetts
With 12 offices in six Northeastern states, Tighe & Bond has been slowly bringing employees back by limiting capacity in each office. Th is has been based on CDC guidelines and state mandates as they’ve evolved—a challenge given that offices are in multiple states.
Most employees continue to work from home, although many work in the field or in the office a few days a week. The firm has gathered employee input through focus groups and surveys, communicated frequently, and explained the rationale behind decisions.
Employees will fully transition back to the office with a hybrid model starting September 7. They will have the option to work remotely up to two days a week, provided they can be productive and achieve positive results.
“One size does not fit all,” says Margo A. Armstrong, vice president of human resources. “Some employees thrived working from home but others struggled. It will be critical for engagement and retention to provide fl exibility going forward.”
2. WWC ENGINEERING
Employees: 100 Headquarters: Sheridan, Wyoming
WWC Engineering is in Phase 3 of its three-part “Return to Office Phases” flow diagram: Phase 1 (optional return to office), Phase 2 (encouraged but not required return to office), Phase 3 (required return to office except in limited circumstances).
Specific triggers, actions, and safety measures were provided for each phase.
Branch managers are making remote work decisions on a case-by-case basis with their department managers and project managers.
A “Remote Work Agreement,” which has been developed with very specific expectations, can be terminated at any point if expectations aren’t being met.
President and CEO Brady Lewis, P.E. advises firms to communicate plans and expectations early. “Expect push back and resist the urge to immediately push back,” he says.
“You’ll be more successful getting people on board if they get a chance to give their input, even if they don’t get the answer they want. Be disciplined about your decision once it’s made.”
3. WALLACE DESIGN COLLECTIVE
Employees: 185 Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Ninety-five percent of Wallace Design Collective employees are back in its five offices at least part of the time. While the firm has no official back-to-the-office policy, employees are encouraged to return to the office when comfortable, especially after having been vaccinated.
At this point, very few employees work from home full-time.
“We believe the office binds people together, and a minimum amount of time has to be spent there to maintain the cohesiveness of the workforce and to continue the great culture we have developed,” says President and CEO Thomas Hendrick, P.E., S.E.
Hendrick’s suggestion: “Keep in mind what everyone has been through over the last year and how lives have been turned upside down. Be patient and flexible on their return.”