Plans for Re-Opening
By: Margot Sunter
After six weeks of careful planning, we are preparing to re-open our office in the coming weeks.
The re-opening will be gradual and implemented in strict accordance with the best health and safety advice from national, provincial and local authorities.
The health and welfare of staff and clients has been our overarching concern since this virus hit and it remains so.
Which is why, when the transition begins next week, it will not be business as usual.
Our staff will not be returning to the same office environment they left on March 19. For many reasons, that pre-COVID office environment may never return.
Back in March our employees packed up their office equipment and days later were working full tilt from home. It was a transition into the unknown that went surprisingly well.
The detail involved in reversing that process is quite another story.
The New Reality
Our office accommodated some 100 employees pre-COVID. Because of protocols now in place, we can accommodate 40.
The office is being thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and, in the cause of social distancing, will be divided into three separate zones, each with its own washrooms, water coolers and meeting room (for private staff-to-client phone calls only). Staff will be encouraged not to leave their zones.
We are implementing a strict clean desk policy, meaning no personal items and no sharing or borrowing of office supplies.
If, for whatever reason, social distancing is not possible both parties must wear masks. If documents must be handed from one person to the other, both must wear gloves.
All documents arriving by mail, or by hand, will continue to be quarantined for two days before being processed.
Clients who wish to visit the office will be asked to wear masks. We will provide masks for those who arrive without.
To limit physical contact, we will use Zoom and SKYPE within the office and, of course, between clients and those who continue working at home.
There will be no food, coffee, tea or communal eating allowed in the office. Our kitchen and dining areas, an important part of the GGFL social culture, will remain closed.
We will have directional arrows on floors and dedicated entry and exit doors.
Our reception desk will be fitted with a plexiglass shield.
The details are seemingly endless.
During the past nine weeks, our teams have done an impressive job of engaging with clients but developing relationships with new clients and new employees is a major challenge if the only connection is over Zoom, or some other audio-visual technology.
As we developed our back-to-office plan, we have kept staff informed through weekly meetings. We also surveyed everyone to understand how they felt about returning to the office and, indeed, whether they want to.
Some are anxious to return; some want a mix of GGFL office and home office and others are happy to continue working at home.
Four staff members have been working in the office processing the steady flow of documents that clients have either brought to the office or mailed. As those who have delivered documents will know, we provided secure drop boxes in our foyer.
Our return to office will be careful, gradual and initially involve about 20 employees.
In case we have to reverse course and close again, staff returning to work in the office will have two sets of equipment to ensure a smooth transition back to remote work.
Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated professional and support staff – and crucial understanding and co-operation from clients – we have been able to meet tax deadline while simultaneously keeping abreast and help our clients navigate the federal and provincial government’s numerous emergency financial measures.
It has been a remarkable effort.
We have also been fortunate in that no GGFL staff member has been stricken with this terrible virus.
As we take these first tentative steps towards returning to our office, we know there will be adjustments to make and challenges to meet, but based on our experience of the past weeks, we are confident that together, our staff and clients will make it work.
We will keep you informed.
Margot Sunter is GGFL’s Chief Operating Officer.