After a long stretch of working remotely, we are coming out of our home office cocoons and migrating back to the office, as an option for those wishing to return. We had a plan and, like much of the past 18 months, it changed.

The plan

July 1, 2021 – Office reopening – Soft Launch

Just like a new restaurant opening, we tagged it as a soft launch to let people ease back into things—remembering/re-learning commuting patterns, re-establishing home and parenting schedules and remembering the rules for Crokinole and where we stashed our pong shoes. We used this time to figure out what we needed to have dual office setups, set our ‘office hours’ and to make sure that our office infrastructure (read: internet and snacks) were up to the challenge of supporting an inhabited office. 

August 16, 2021 – Grand Re-Opening

A week long celebration featuring games, a field day, food truck, coffee cart and more. We figured that a 6-week return/re-entry to the office phase would give everyone time to settle into their patterns and schedules and we could gather safely together to celebrate and return to our normal.

The reality

On July 1st, we returned to the office and more people came than I expected, eager to be back on a regular, if not daily, basis. It felt like that first day of school, checking out your classroom (read: office) and your classmates (read: old team members and new). Most people settled in quickly to their routines. 

Our Grand Re-Opening events were pared down, from many to one, isolated food truck lunch outdoors due to revised health and safety guidelines. 

Questions you might be asking

Are people required to be in the office?

The short answer is no. Where you work at Rustici is not as important as the work that you do. 

For many, returning to the office was a welcome change of scenery and a chance to reset boundaries between life and work. For a few, it was their first experience being in the office having been hired remotely. And for some, they found that working from home was best for them. Our only ask is that you communicate with your team and those you work with frequently so they know whether to book a meeting room or a Google Hangout to catch up. 

How are you handling vaccinations and masking?

We went to the experts on this one and are following CDC guidelines. When we first returned, that meant no masking for vaccinated people and masks for those not vaccinated. Since that time, things have changed, and now we’re all masked up in shared spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Thankfully, we have a pretty great patio to gather for lunch and meet mask free, weather permitting. We’re in Tennessee, so it can get hot quickly and morning meetings seem to be the most manageable outside. 

What are meetings like in a hybrid set up?

If you’ve ever been the sole remote participant in a meeting, you know it’s not a great experience. We try to mitigate this by using an Owl or simply all joining via Hangouts so that everyone can hear and be heard. We’re still figuring it, out but so far this seems to be working.

How many people actually make it to the office?

This has been the most pleasant surprise of all. On any given day, you’ll find 50-75% of our local people in the office. Fridays that figure definitely drops! But for the most part, people come in and have made the transition to masking up gracefully. And playing a game of pong masked up just brings that additional challenge. 

Lessons learned

We missed each other. 

There’s something to be said for that unexpected encounter in the break room, walking down the hall to ask a quick question, or a pop up afternoon game of some sort that makes the commute worth the effort. 

Chipotle Thursday is going strong. 

The (slack) dice roll starts at 9:30 to see who has to make the pick-up run. Many times we need 2 people to retrieve all of our orders (10:50am pick up time always). 

Free food goes farther than you think. 

Breakfast grab ‘n go’s to honor our new hires, or an impromptu lunch for a remote visitor, we’ll find an excuse to treat people. I’m pretty sure Andy has 100% attendance when free food is involved.

The Rustici mask game is strong

From the sporty, soccer coach vibe to the fashionable, color coordinated approach, it’s fun to see what new patterns, colors and styles emerge every day. 

Go with the flow. 

Things are changing every day, and we have to adapt. Let’s face it, no one wants to be masked up in the building, but it’s where we are at this moment. We do it to protect ourselves, our coworkers and our families. When we had to shift to masking 100% indoors after enjoying a mostly normal office environment for a few weeks, people kept coming to the office. Sure, for many of us (me included) moving things back to a home office was more hassle than wearing a mask. For others, they’ve got their routine down again and can put up with the inconvenience. And some opted to return to their home office. There is no wrong or right answer here. We let each person pick their path and support wherever they are most comfortable.

It’s been an adventure navigating this return to the office and a hybrid setup, and I don’t expect the surprises to stop any time soon. I’m grateful to our team for handling these hurdles with grace, getting to finally meet our new team members in person, and for our remarkable office manager, Liz, for taking such great care of us and the spaces that we share (physically and virtually). It takes a lot of effort to maintain a hybrid set up to support people where they are, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Tammy knew what SCORM was several years before joining Rustici Software, and she’s not even a standards geek. She’s the Managing Director and leads our company with a passionate commitment to caring for our people and customers. She’s also an Iron(wo)Man many times over.