Guest blog by Nicole Davis, Operations Manager
Once upon a time, four passionate social sector organizations came together to share office space, splitting the burden of administration, and exploring opportunities for collaboration.
Picture this – a slightly tattered teal carpet stretching over 5,000+ square feet of hallways, offices, and meeting space; exposed brick walls, crisscrossed wooden ceiling beams, and 6-foot windows in every room. Sun shines through the west side of this 120 year-old space, while the other side dances at night with colorful automated light features in every window. It’s a creative space that offers room to work independent or collective, share across initiatives, and grow together.
Now, picture this office space empty and lifeless for six months while we’re all hunkered down in our homes, hiding from a global pandemic.
Covid, 1. Office Space, 0.
Listen, we were prepared to share office space and get annoyed at someone for leaving their dirty dishes in the sink. We were ready for the inevitable phone call from someone who forgot their keys and couldn’t get in. We even had a plan to develop a lovely community standards document for everyone’s benefit.
But, marking out 6-foot distances on the stomp cladding carpet that had already taken years of very visible abuse, and having to calculate the risk of contracting a deadly virus room by room? No. We hadn’t considered that. After all, we signed the lease with intent to share office space, not Covid.
Sadly, we had no choice in the matter; Covid had taken up residence, refusing to contribute to rent – and it wasn’t here to share office space or collaborate. Regardless of its actual purpose, it deeply dampened our new office excitement and successfully propelled our housekeeping cost and anxiety levels.
Covid, 3. Office Space, 0.
It was time. We couldn’t let a spiky ball of mutated virus beat us three-nothing. We had to go to the mattresses. (Quote from The Godfather meaning prepare for battle. Nobody would encourage mattress hopping during a global pandemic.)
We assembled a pandemic task force made up of 6 volunteers from across our organizations.
We participated in return-to-office webinars, prepared pages of new office safety protocols, and required every team member to take a quiz to demonstrate that they were prepared for our new way of working together; to share office space, not Covid.
We reached out to our cleaning company and ordered disinfectant and a litre of hand sanitizer for every room in our office space.
We measured every inch of every nook and calculated capacity for every room and hallway in our dusty, teal-carpeted dream office.
We decided that for us, the benefits of working in-office outweighed the risks.
We masked up our faces, stepped out of our pajamas, and tried to fit into our work pants again.
We showed up slowly, person by person, team by team, over a couple of months after our province declared it safe to return to office.
We accepted that we had an invisible new colleague who didn’t respect personal space, so we had to do our best to respect it for them while knowing it might not be enough.
We determined our own comfort levels and communicated them openly with each other.
We celebrated our new opportunity to share office space despite Covid-19 by having a Maskerade. We turned plain white masks into permanent marker masterpieces. We ate together, at a distance, with individually packaged treats, and participated in social distancing activities that adhered to room capacities. We practiced sanitizing with plastic eggs and following route stickers; all in an attempt to successfully share office space, not Covid.