SHIFT’s Plans to Head Back to the Office

By Rick Murray, Managing Partner

I’m just going to put this out there.  

We’re doing a soft reopening of our offices this summer (where people are welcome to come in as often as they’d like) and a more formal reopening to return after Labor Day.  

When we surveyed the agency in April, the vast majority (85%) of our team said they were eager to come back to the office two to three days a week; only a handful indicated that they were keen to come back full time, and none of the people who live within commuting distance to an office said they’d prefer to stay remote forever. (20% of our staff is now fully remote, by the way, up from 12% pre-pandemic).   

Since we opened the doors and cleared out all the dead plants, we’ve typically seen less than 5 percent of our staff in on most days; a huge day would see 25% to 30%. And that’s totally cool. What’s unmistakable, however, is the pure joy on the faces of those visiting the office – and interacting with other humans outside whatever bubble they’ve been living in – for the first time since March 12, 2020.  

That’s what we’ve been missing. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet have been amazing lifelines connecting us to each other and our clients throughout it all, but – at least in our environment at SHIFT – they simply can’t match the experience or outcomes we get when brainstorming, learning and shooting the breeze with each other face-to-face.  

Returning to new office policies  

So, here’s our plan. Come Labor Day, we’re asking those who feel comfortable coming back to the office to be there three days a week, and to work from wherever they happen to be the other two. We’ve also learned the hard way that remote onboarding of new staff – especially new junior staff – isn’t as effective as working alongside your new colleagues throughout the onboarding process. So, we’re going to invite all new hires, regardless of where they live, to spend at least one week per month for each of their first three months in one of our offices.  

One final thought. How people feel and choose to act is going to continue to evolve, and so will how we choose to respond. Based on the survey data, we had been prepared to rearrange seating, reduce access to common areas and ban most visitors in all offices. But as more and more people are now fully vaccinated (and 98% of our staff indicated that that was their intent), we’re seeing that the fear of everything and everyone outside our bubble is dissipating, increasingly replaced by a burning desire to move on with our lives.   

No one expects things to return to whatever “normal” used to be; indeed, business as usual is a sure path to obsolescence. But the smiles on the faces I’ve seen in the office to date are proof that we’re ready to create whatever SHIFT’s “next normal” is together.  

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