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COVID-19 Update: When Will We Return to the Office?

The shorter answer to that question is: right now, we're anticipating a return to our physical office when we hit Stage 3 of the Alberta Government's relaunch plan. The longer answer explains why (spoilers: it's about safety and client service).

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I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since we shifted to fully remote work in response to the global pandemic. Since that time, our team has continued to deliver the work and client service we are known for – except we’ve been delivering it from our home offices, our bedrooms, and our kitchen tables.

Also, since then, the Alberta Government has released their strategic approach to a phased relaunch of Alberta’s economy. With that announcement, some of our clients have been asking when we plan on returning to the office (what can we say – we make a good cup of coffee).

The answer to that question is: right now, we’re anticipating a return to our physical office when we hit Stage 3 of Alberta’s relaunch plan. Further to that, we are waiting to understand the government protocols and restrictions that will be in place at that point, which are to be determined based on the outcomes of Stages 1 and 2. In order to maintain the continuity of our business and ensure our client projects can be delivered on time and on budget, we are mitigating risk by continuing to work from home for now.

horizontal timeline stage 1-3

Why Not Now?

Trust me, we would love to be back safely in our space, working as a team and collaborating with our clients. The truth of the matter is, though, it just doesn’t make sense for us to return yet.

Physical distancing is a requirement we believe in and will abide by, which in turn makes our space difficult to return to as it stands. We have an open-concept office with teams in close proximity; we have a communal kitchen; we have a communal lunch table; we have shared-use meeting rooms that are more or less rendered useless while the distancing recommendation is in place. For instance, when we abide by the 6-foot physical distancing rule, we can only fit 3 people at our 14-seat lunch table. After we spread out our desks, we can only fit ~half of our team in our primary space. We can’t fit a whole team in a meeting room for a weekly meeting or a sprint retro. We can’t do over-the-shoulder UI/UX collaboration, or information architecture workshops.

Further to that, we have shared spaces in our building – mainly, the washrooms, but also stairwells, elevators, and entrances. We can enforce best practices in our space, but we cannot control what visitors or other tenants in the building are doing. That exposes our clients, our team, and their families to too much risk. We want to wait until that risk is better understood and controlled.

In order to maintain the continuity of our business and ensure our client projects can be delivered on time and on budget, we are mitigating risk by continuing to work from home for now.

Lastly, the sheer logistics of returning to the office and working within it, in a manner that is safe and that adheres to the requirements laid out by Alberta Health Services is at this point in time not an effective use of time considering our proven efficacy in working remotely. Returning to the office now, on top of all the health risks, will come at the expense to our client service, velocity, and more. Given that we’ve had multiple projects launch in the 2 months we’ve been remote, the risks of bringing everyone back to the office right now far outweigh the benefits of continuing to work remotely.

Like we said when we first went remote: our standard delivery model already employs the tools, infrastructure, and practices necessary to efficiently facilitate distributed work, and we are entirely experienced and comfortable working in this manner – and we’ve proven it in the last 63 days. We’ll continue to do so until it makes sense for us to return.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about working together during the unfolding events. Thank you.