San Diegans Navigating Uncharted Territory as They Head Back to the Office

Office managers work on ways to keep employees safe while getting back to work.

NBC Universal, Inc.

There is no guidebook. There is no website. There is no one right way.

There are merely guidelines and suggestions for business offices that want to bring employees back to work in person.

“It has not been easy,” sighed William Lopez.

Lopez owns Alternative Strategies, a North Park-based marketing firm that focuses on the hospitality industry. His firm hit the proverbial pandemic wall last year and has slowly rebuilt itself as clients continued reinventing and rebuilding under California’s strict public health rules.

“There isn’t necessarily a playbook. There’s CDC guidelines. There were recommendations,” Lopez said as he explained how he got his 24 employees back inside the office last month.

“Naturally, when we’re here in one space, we’re able to collaborate more, share ideas, check in with one another, and that is harder to do remotely," he added.

“It does feel a little different,” graphic designer Rebeca Valenzuela said.

She is one of Lopez’s employees assigned to work in-person on Thursday. Lopez split his staff in two and assigned them different days to give everyone more room in the office. One half works in the office Mondays and Wednesdays. Valenzuela’s half works Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lopez said he and all of his employees are vaccinated.

Lopez also purchased personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer for every room in the office, and placed signage outside and inside the office. He also placed plexiglass dividers between employees who still had to work within six feet of each other.

“I was honestly excited,” smiled Valenzuela. “Knowing that everyone else is being safe, it just gives a great overall feeling in the workplace.”

“Coming back in and seeing the different faces and having that in person time together was definitely beneficial," Lopez said. “What we do, the closer we are as a team, that benefits our clients.”

“Having us lead by example would be a great way to show people, ‘Hey, this is possible,’” Valenzuela said.

Lopez said the first step in his personal guidebook is communication.

“If you’re just communicating with your team, you’re going to learn a lot and hopefully make the decisions that make them happy.”

Everyone at Alternative Strategies works from home on Fridays. Lopez said they plan to revisit their work schedule next month as California’s public health rules continue to evolve.

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