SHARING AND CARING: Govan Brown’s Return-to-Work Strategy
As COVID-19 shifted what a “workplace” should look like, organizations across the globe have mobilized to pull together new protocols and practices for their workspaces as they consider when and how to bring back staff.
In April, the Govan Brown team began discussing this very challenge with clients, many of whom really weren’t sure how to approach their return. As Govan Brown’s Toronto office organized their own return-to-work strategy, they realized they could offer those same ideas to their clients and partners.
“We started working with our clients to look at their floor plans and make suggestions based on what we did in our own office,” says Jordan Winter, manager of services and special projects for Govan Brown. “Many of them were interested in learning more, so we decided to formalize it.”
The team put together a taskforce to review various options for physical distancing, way-finding, workstation reconfiguration, and other measures, reaching out to vendors for pricing on standard components. The team then packaged that information into a comprehensive return-to-work guide or menu of options that could help walk clients through their decision making.
“We’ve basically created a playbook they can customize for their own office,” says Winter. “They can use it as a framework to discuss everything from staggered schedules and how to enter the building to specific materials and where to source them. Every client we’ve shared it with has wanted to adopt at least some of the suggestions.”
With lessons learned and a strategy formalized, the Govan Brown team took the knowledge they had acquired a step further. The team had been working pro bono with YWCA Toronto—a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls—to renovate their kitchen. When COVID-19 put that project on pause, they shifted to a new approach to giving back.
“We realized we could still help them through our area of expertise by updating their spaces to comply with COVID-19 regulations,” says Sarah Paul, Govan Brown’s vice president of human resources and corporate social responsibility. “Everything we did for our office, we did for them.”
The team has since offered the same service to other community partners, including FoodShare, which provides low-income families with access to healthy food. Govan Brown volunteers spent hours with them updating their office with COVID-19 signage, sanitizing stations, and other features of the service.
And they aren’t stopping there. The team continues to learn from each project, solicit feedback from the clients and partners who are implementing their strategies, and adjust the approach as needed.
“Just like everyone, we are learning as we go about what works best,” says Winter. “But many of our smaller clients don’t need drawings or big plans. They are looking to us for guidance, and we’re more than happy to help.”