It’s a tale as old as time by now, and one shared across the country by office workers lucky enough to ride out the pandemic from the safety of their homes: Last March, we all packed up for the day and simply never returned to work as we knew it. Sure, there was a (masked) stop into the office here and there for a monitor or a mousepad, and even an open-air parking lot meetup or two. But mostly, we downloaded esoteric zoom backgrounds, threw away all our “hard pants,” settled into our home offices, and got to work.
Here we are 15 months later, and the tide has turned. This month and after a lot of careful consideration, we were able to reopen both our Atlanta and Denver offices on a limited, voluntary basis for those who are comfortable and crave the face-to-face connection, IRL collaboration and — sorry Keurig — coffee the offices have to offer.
Of course, for some of us, the timing isn’t right, or we’ve discovered we work better at home, or there are times it works to be in the office and others it doesn’t. And Look Listen said that’s ok too. So, for now, we’ve got a healthy mix of staffers in the office and at home, all working just as hard as ever for our clients. While it’s exciting, it’s also no small feat to manage the here-and-there nature of working right now.
We asked Crystal Noonan, our Denver Office Manager, and Donna Montgomery, our President, to share a little peek behind the curtain of the office reopening for Look Listen’s Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe location. See for yourself!
Look Listen (LL): At the start of the shutdown, what did you think you’d miss most about life in the Look Listen office?
- Donna Montgomery (DM): The ability to shut my office door and have a quiet space to think. I knew working from home with pets and kids was going to be tough.
- Crystal Noonan (CN): At the start of the pandemic, I wasn’t very focused on what I would miss about life in the Look Listen office. It seemed like everything was new and unknown; most aspects of my work-life took a backseat to maintaining the daily mental and physical health of myself, my family and friends.
LL: What did you actually miss most?
- DM: The energy of the team — and hugging people when I know they needed it.
- CN: I truly missed just seeing people’s faces (not on video) and talking to them in person.
The little interactions like, “How is your morning?,” “What shall we order for lunch?” and those types of things were very much missed.Crystal Noonan, Look Listen Denver Office Manager
LL: Approximately how long was the planning process for reopening?
- DM: It feels like forever as it was always on our minds. Having two offices in two different states required us to stay flexible — like we all had to be in our personal lives as well.
- CN: We had some high hopes during the middle of the pandemic about reopening. We planned for it and then canceled it due to health and safety issues, as well as the staff’s lack of interest to come back in and abide by the rules of social distancing, mask-wearing, etc, when they could just stay home. Since we eventually reopened after our city, county and state mandates had expired, it was much a simpler process than if we would have opened when those mandates were in place.
LL: Crystal, you typically prep for one new hire at a time to get settled in the office; how was it different to bring in a big group of returning employees all at once?
- CN: I’m the type that likes to have all my ducks in a row, so it was interesting to go into the reopening not knowing who would be returning and when. This allowed for a flexible outlook on my part — knowing that it wasn’t going to be perfect at first, but there would be an opportunity to perfect as we went along.
LL: What was the biggest challenge of reopening the office?
- DM: I think it was finding a middle ground that would work for everyone. Nothing is ever totally equitable; everything has trade-offs. We have staff that pre-COVID were already working remotely, so this was a lot like managing that. Our culture is really important, so I’m always trying to balance and protect it while accounting for all the different ways our people work with and for us.
- CN: The biggest challenge is maintaining equity for all staff — those who choose to work from home and those who choose to work from the office.
LL: What has been most rewarding about reopening the office?
- DM: That it’s given everyone a spike of energy and happiness. Even those who are working from home or in another city have said they can see and feel it, too. It’s giving us hope that the world will be normal again — even if it’s a new normal.
- CN: The most rewarding for me is seeing how happy those who have decided to return to the office are.
LL: Now that the office is open to those employees who feel comfortable, what does it look like for partners, clients and other visitors?
- DM: We’re focusing on our team right now. Many of our clients are not located in the same cities as our offices, so we don’t have a sense of urgency to completely solve this one just yet.
- CN: While we’re not inviting visitors to the office just yet, the multiple vendors who keep the office stocked, clean and well-fed are happy we are back and ordering from them again.