Even During a Pandemic, We're Better Together
For many companies, this pandemic has been extremely detrimental to workplace culture. Some are still transitioning back into the office. And it’s proving difficult for those with more employees and physical space constraints, especially as the Omicron variant causes another wave of illnesses, exposures and quarantines.
But, almost two years into this, we at Flynn Wright are very proud of where we are and how we got here, under the circumstances. It took a great deal of diligence across our entire staff, but we never fully closed our office. We have been largely back at work since late summer 2020, we now have a safer environment, and we can work comfortably and efficiently in the culture we created over 38 years in business.
When it all started in March 2020, we took immediate action based on CDC guidelines: We encouraged our people to work from home, and we set them up with the systems and tools to do so; we also required all spring break travelers to quarantine away from the office for at least two weeks. We monitored what was going on around us and communicated regularly with employees, and we assessed how things went. Of course, aside from assumed risks of having multiple people in one place, we had the other emerging circumstances to contend with — schools and daycares were closed, and parents needed to stay home with small children.
We did what we had to, mastering Microsoft Teams and Zoom like everyone else, and doing what was necessary to serve clients. Early statistics indicated consumers were at home, isolated and hungry for communication. Even if our clients couldn’t provide their products and services in-person, there were other ways to stay in front of audiences. While our clients’ competitors shut down and pulled back, we consulted them to seize that opportunity to increase their presence in the market and steal share.
Our work never stopped. In fact, the pace picked up, and we quickly realized being apart made it harder to communicate and collaborate.
A New Way of Working
Within a few weeks, we were shifting our focus to making things safer and more comfortable around the office, masking up with daily temperature checks; thoroughly cleaning all common spaces and providing sanitizer for team members; discouraging visitors; and eliminating gatherings in the office, using video conferencing even when just down the hall from one another.
We reconfigured and reconstructed spaces, creating more closed-in offices so people could work safer. We followed all CDC guidelines related to exposures or positive tests. And we communicated at least weekly, and sometimes daily, with continuous updates on our policies.
Although we had a work-from-home option through the end of the year, most of our 80+ team members were back in the office by late summer 2020. What we thought was the case proved to be true.
- Physically being at work helps us manage our time better than when we are off-site.
- Simply being in the same building creates a feeling of togetherness that cannot be simulated through video conferencing.
- Even if clients could not be in the office because of their organizations’ size or space constraints, they realized how much our approach helped us serve them better.
Most important: We learned we can do all of this and still be safe.
For any organization our size with the flexibility of creating safer spaces around the office, we encourage them to do what we did. Omicron is definitely making things challenging again, and it may be tempting for other businesses to simply keep people away from the office and one another. We are confident in the environment we’ve created: Almost all of our people are vaccinated, and we work hard to keep people protected and motivated to be together. We are proud to say our culture is strong and we’re serving clients better than ever.
Also, an important byproduct is that it’s good for restaurants, retail stores and service providers in our area, because we can get out and about to support them as well. Our people say it feels good to be in the office, and neighboring businesses are thankful we’re here.
We are all thankful we can be together safely.
Greater Des Moines (DSM) has one of the best business climates in the country. The region is nationally recognized for having a talented and educated workforce, a cost of doing business 13% below the national average, a low cost of living and an exceptional quality of life."
Jeff White is vice president of business development and strategy at Flynn Wright in Downtown Des Moines (DSM).