• Jess Co

4 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Bringing Your Company Back to the Office

Updated: Oct 1


The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to adjust to a new world. While many are enjoying the convenience and comfort of not commuting to the office, over lock-down, remote employees reported a decline in collaboration and the ability to perform in high-communication roles.


While there are many benefits to remote work, we now understand that certain crucial components of the workplace just can’t be replicated from a distance.


In September, major North American companies plan on having more than 50% of  their employees back in the workplace, all of which requires substantial preparation. If you are in charge of your company’s transition, make sure you avoid these four costly mistakes. 


1. Don’t Assume a Binary Future

It’s not “work from office” or “work from home” -- it’s both.


While working from home will certainly be a major component of our brave new world, it would be wrong to assume that you are exempt from providing a quality office experience. If anything, safe and -- most importantly -- collaborative work environments will become even more desirable to employees. Companies that excel here will be more productive and more attractive to prospective talent. According to a recent survey of 3,000 employees — during the lock-down — 72% found that they were better at managing distractions and staying focused at home. On the flip side, 86% of employees report collaborating better in the office.


The future is hybrid -- employees will want to come to work when needed, and work from home when possible -- not only for safety, but also for productivity and comfort.


2. Avoid Cross-Pollinating Staggered Schedules

Maintain mutually exclusive capsules to reduce employee exposure. 

The CDC recommends dividing your organization into separate ‘capsules’: groups of employees that are permitted to return on assigned dates, or on a specific schedule. The idea is to keep employees from encountering members of other capsules in-person, for three critical reasons

  1. If your capsules aren’t thoughtfully organized (for example, entire departments coming in at the same time, or everyone comes in at once), you may have to send everyone (or an entire department) to quarantine if there is an exposure.

  2. If you have a sick employee and proper capsules, you reduce the amount of people who were exposed, consequently limiting the number of people who must be asked to quarantine. 

  3. Done correctly, employees will still gain the benefit of face-to-face work with their superiors and their key teammates.

This is not an easy dance to master. Data-driven tools simplify the process to plan and implement capsules, and ensure that they do not overlap.

3. Don't Ignore Childcare

Support the parents in your company with scheduling flexibility.


When building your capsules, take into account employees who have specific needs -- such as childcare. Capsules and office access times should allow employees to participate as much as possible, which requires a degree of flexibility in scheduling. 

For example, NYC’s “blended” learning model puts a big strain on parents. Students will spend two to three days in school and two or three days at home. If even one child tests positive, the policy demands a 14-day online learning quarantine for the students exposed. 

You have a couple of options when re-opening the office. Start by sending employees a survey to gauge their scheduling preferences. Alternatively, allow them to stay home on their scheduled days if they have a family emergency or no available childcare at that time. Communicating effectively at this level with your employees will inspire confidence and trust in your office reopening. 

4. Don't Assume A Plan Will Communicate Itself

Support the parents in your company with scheduling flexibility.


Unsurprisingly, coming back to the workplace creates significant anxiety for employees who have been told for months that offices are a scary place. We’ve now learned the hard way that, if you don’t over-communicate at every point, your employees won’t come back

Take a look at Chicago’s school reopening plan for example. The reopening method was in constant deliberation while the frustration of parents and teachers waiting on the news skyrocketed. Within just one day of Chicago’s superintendent’s announcement of a hybrid (in-person/remote) school schedule, the Chicago Teachers Union threatened a strike, and the change to remote learning was made. 

This communication blunder is exactly what companies need to avoid, because concerned and or frustrated employees make for empty offices. Here are a few ways to do it right:

  1. Make clear communications about the process and established rules -- show diagrams of the seating chart and photos of your clean and safe office.

  2. Verify that employees understand all instructions and limitations and collect feedback, frequently.

  3. Instill confidence in management by showing there is a clear and effective plan being implemented.

Compliance is a two-way street, if you are forthcoming and transparent with your plans, your employees will be inclined to follow protocol and establish their ‘new normal’.

In addition to being co-founder of Dojo, Guy Vardi is Chief Innovation Officer at Silverstein Properties, a global real estate owner and developer based in New York City. // Dan Goldstern is co-founder of Dojo. Jessica Co is a Growth Strategy Analyst at Dojo.

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