April 24, 2020

Back to the Office: WPI Agencies Share Plans to Reintroduce Staff & Clients to the Workplace

Written By: Angie Pascale

As the world moves onto the other side of the curve, agencies are considering the safest and most effective ways to reintroduce their staff and clients back into the office. 

In our most recent virtual roundtable discussions, WPI Partner Agency WE Marketing Group explained what steps they have been taking in China as the country opens back up. WPI Partners in other countries discussed their plans and ideas as different regions start announcing dates for lifting social distancing orders. 

Following are the top tips and advice from our partners around the globe:

Give a Two Week Buffer

Don’t jump back into the office too soon. If your region lifts shelter in place orders on May 1, for example, wait until May 15 before allowing people back into the office. Partner Tombras in Tennessee, USA will be observing this prudence period as the first part of a 10-week reintroduction plan. 

Only Allow Essential Staff for First Two Weeks

To ensure a gradual and safe process of bringing staff back, limit the number of people in the first wave to approximately 10% of office staff, as Tombras is doing. Focus on essential staff only--cleaning crews that will ensure everyone is safe, video production team that needs to access equipment, HR and operational teams that should meet to strategize further office integrations. 

Rotate Staff on Specific Days

As you start bringing back more than the essential staff, consider rotating the days people come in. For example, assign Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to 50% of the staff, and Tuesdays and Thursdays to the other 50%. Rather than assigning days by department or functionality, you can encourage physical distancing by splitting the days up among these teams. 

Restrict Staff That Show Symptoms or Have Traveled

Partner Ardmore  in Northern Ireland is only allowing one-third of their staff back initially. Anyone who has shown symptoms, is high-risk or have family members that are symptomatic or high-risk will be the last allowed back. If a staff member is healthy at first but begins feeling sick or showing symptoms at any turn during the rollout, send them home immediately. 

WE Marketing Group’s building management is taking the temperature of every person that enters the building. WE is also requiring any staff members that travel to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Modify Office Plans for Social Distancing

Many partners are finding they won’t need to do this because of how they’re limiting the percentage of staff and/or rotating team members. If these measures won’t suffice, rearrange the office layout to ensure at least six feet of distance between desks. Guidelines provided by FUSE Marketing Group’s building manager in Toronto, Canada recommend posting signage throughout the office to indicate proper distances. 

Keep Digital-Only Staff WFH

While Hong Kong-based WE Marketing Group has re-opened their doors, they’re not having all staff come back. Their digital marketing and ecommerce teams, which are able to manage distance working more effectively than other departments, will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. 

Create Movement Flows in Office

Assign stairways as “up only” or “down only,” create one-way walking paths throughout the office and post clear signage for these flows. This will help to reduce physically bumping into coworkers and limit unexpected face-to-face interactions, which can increase chances of spreading illnesses. 

Limit Number of People That Can Enter Shared Rooms

Set a maximum number of people that can meet in conference rooms, enter break rooms, and use other shared spaces at the same time. In conference or training rooms, remove half of the chairs to further encourage safe social distancing. 

Increase Office Cleanings

Ensure that the entire office is cleaned at least twice a day. Disinfect flat, hard surfaces like desk- and tabletops, countertops, handrails and door handles. Place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer around the office for staff to use regularly. 

Provide Protective Gear

Since the day they opened up their doors again about a month ago, WE Marketing Group has been providing their staff with one mask every day for every employee. Partner Wächter & Wächter in Germany is also considering requiring masks as it’s now a mandate in Germany for everyone to wear them in public.

Medical grade masks are in short supply in many areas, so there is the option of creating homemade masks to distribute. With their Heroes Wear Masks campaign, Partner R&R Partners in Nevada, USA created a simple mask pattern using only a t-shirt.

Keep WFH as a Option

Don’t make working in the office mandatory. If staff have weakened immune systems or simply don’t feel comfortable working in the office or taking public transit to get there, they should be allowed to continue working from home until it’s safer to return. Partners Wasserman + Partners in Vancouver, Canada and relativ* in Tokyo, Japan have made this an option due to high usage of public transportation in their cities. 

Restrict Visitors for 30 Days

Many clients are just as eager as staff to come back into the agency’s office, but they’ll have to be patient. Some partners, like Ardmore Advertising, are restricting any and all client visits for the first 30 days after they reopen. An important way to protect both staff and clients! 

Be Flexible

News and guidelines continue to change on a daily basis, so you have to remain flexible. If you make it to week four and find it’s not wise to have more staff come back, then wait another two weeks. If you’re not ready to welcome visitors after 30 days, then don’t! Continue to analyze the situation, refine the process, and get feedback from staff. 

What precautions and steps is your agency taking to reintroduce staff and clients to the workplace? Share your thoughts on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages. 

Written By: Angie Pascale