Pragmatic Optimism #5: The Definitive Guide to Reopening Offices

May 23, 2020

Pragmatic Optimism #5: The Definitive Guide to Reopening Offices

For the Definitive Guide, please visit the ColourSpace website.


Hey everyone, hope you're all doing well, especially with some restrictions starting to lift, at least for those of us here in Australia.

So for the past few weeks, I've been doing this video series on pragmatic optimism, with the intent of bringing, I guess an optimistic voice through the doom and gloom, as well as consider what are some pragmatic takeaways that we can all apply?

And now with people and businesses starting to think about recovery, today I wanted to share something that's very much on the pragmatic side of the equation, and that is: a definitive, holistic guide to reopening offices.

Now this guide isn't just about safety and social distancing, as there are much more credible authorities than me. But what I thought I could do, was to holistically consider everything related to reopening an office, from physical, through to organisational, and through to mental health, both for team members and leaders alike.

And so, after a tonne of research and review of as many sources as I could find, what I've done is grouped this into the following five categories.

First of all, health and safety, of course, given this will be front of mind for most people. And so, whilst I may not be the institutional authority on this, what I have done is reviewed as many sources as I could find in order to consolidate a lot of their guidelines, as well as thought about a few other things from a business perspective you may want to consider.

I cover everything from:

  • Social distancing and its implications on office layout
  • The types of PPE equipment and consumables that you might want to consider
  • Policies and procedures that would apply in this new world
  • Broader strategic risk mitigation strategies in the event of further outbreaks or lockdowns

Secondly, I look at team management, which is the management of the physical movement of people as we go through recovery. For example:

  • How do we manage an ongoing roster of people who are working from home and working in the office?
  • Have you considered the expected increase in travel time as more people are likely to drive to work rather than take public transport?
  • For staff who are working from home, what else can we do to make them more effective such as subsidising faster internet for example?
  • I also took the liberty of looking at a bunch of project management collaboration and communication tools that you might wanna consider to manage your people.

Thirdly, I look at mental health. Now this is something that's quite serious because everyone has quite literally just been through a life changing experience. And so our collective mental health and well-being is gonna be all over the place, and it's important to have a good strategy in place.

However, rather than just listing a bunch of numbers that people can contact, what I thought could be more effective would be to consider the individual mindsets of people who are returning to work, both in terms of team members and leaders alike.

For staff, some may lost loved ones, some may be in financial distress, and then for a lot of other people, they may just be perfectly fine. And for leaders, on top of everything I just mentioned, there may also be other challenges such as the stress of trying to run a business during a pandemic. So I have a look at all of these potential factors and then consider: What are some of the mental health interventions that we can put in place?

But as a broad general statement, I implore everyone to remember that there is no one size fits all solution to mental health, and I strongly encourage a bit more communication and empathy during the recovery period.

Fourth, I look at reopening businesses from a leadership perspective, and that's focusing moreso on management and mindsets. What I did was look at bunch of industry leaders and management consultancies, and look at what it is that they've had to say about business recovery. It covers everything from business recovery strategies through to role of boards, leadership expectations, resilience mindsets, and communication.

And finally, I cover followership and teamwork, something I talked about in last week's video. We're all in this together, so what can we do as team members in an organisation to collaborate, to communicate, and to take personal leadership and responsibility for our own actions? How can we support each other and our leaders to create a great environment for recovery?

All of these are documented in this article on the ColourSpace website, including additional links and resources that you might find useful. Now fair warning, it is quite a long guide, and so one of the other things that I thought I could do would be to take the most salient points of the guide and put them into handy little checklists here.

So if you think this could be useful for you or your business, please leave a comment below and I can get a hard copy sent out to you or even a PDF.

And finally, I do want to acknowledge that whilst I have called this a definitive guide, there is way more that can covered. And so ultimately, this is but a starting point for people who are thinking about how to reopen offices, workplaces, and businesses. If there is anything missing or needs to be updated, or you'd like me to cover, please do let me know.

Otherwise, if you do think this guide is useful, please feel free to share it along, or to tag people in the comments below.

As always, please continue to stay upbeat and extra safe, especially as we're all starting to come out of lockdown. Thank you, and I'll see you next week.

Did you enjoy this?

Then please consider signing up to my 'Ko Lab' newsletter in the footer below or by clicking here. It's a curated collection of thoughts covering everything from psychology, sociology, philosophy, entrepreneurship, social impact, and whatever else catches my interest. I also include new articles, podcasts, and public discussions.