Empty One Planet Group office in Walnut Creek, CA

For the past almost two years, our offices, like many across the country and the world, have been closed. Our team has worked remotely, constantly juggling the balance of work and home responsibilities. It would be an understatement to say that it’s been difficult. From moving all meetings to video calls, to attending to kids and constant distractions, our team members have navigated through the highs and lows with grace and an excellent attitude. This is why we were so excited to welcome our team back to our headquarters office at the end of last year.

This is not to say that things are actually “back to normal”. We are easing back into it while dealing with the surge in COVID cases experienced in January. Our team is only in the office 3 days a week, and we are spread out globally more than ever before. Virtual meetings are the new norm and will continue to be. Though the future and coming year are still unknown, we are happy to be making steps forward in bringing our team back together and nurturing the workplace culture in which we take so much pride. 

“Not getting to socialize with anyone outside your household during the pandemic was hard.  We are "wired for connection", as Brene Brown says.  I've always been someone who appreciates having alone time and space to recharge, but being totally shut off from my usual opportunities for connection made me realize how important that feels for me.  I'm much more mindful and appreciative now of opportunities to truly connect with people. “

- Rachel, Senior Manager - Business Operations, California.com

No more home distractions

It’s no secret that working from home can be difficult. With looming chores and distracting housemates, it can be hard to get work done. Couple that with the increasingly blurred lines between work and home and it can be a struggle to find a balance. 

“There are no disturbances from home like a doorbell, a phone ringing, or a dog demanding attention. I like having the ability to just walk over and talk to a coworker about something for work or to simply check-in. Online chats can feel too direct because you do not want to disturb them nor type a novel to get your point across. Plus, the volume of chat is high when everyone is working remotely and that can be very distracting from being in a working rhythm.”

- Tom, VP Business Development, Buyerlink

Workspaces set up for success

Just because we feel comfortable at home does not mean that it’s an ideal place to get work done. Not only are there constant distractions, but not everyone has access to a private office to take calls in or work on projects. Kitchen islands and dining room chairs as makeshift desk setups are not ideal for full-time work. 

We like to set our team members up for success by giving them a space to comfortably get work done. Whether that’s a desk with dual monitors, a proper desk chair, or even coffee to keep them fueled, the office is always equipped with what our team needs. 

“For me, the office offers a better work environment - faster internet, uninterrupted connection to our servers, and lighting that is better suited for long hours at the computer. That, plus seeing co-workers and checking in makes going back into the office something I look forward to. Oh, and don’t forget the snacks & lunches!” 

- Hyxue, Accounting Analyst Manager, Buyerlink

We’ve missed the small talk

Perhaps the greatest thing to gain is more casual time with our coworkers. Now we can get to know each other outside of just work discussions, and we can build meaningful relationships and trust with those that we spend most of our days with. Ultimately, that’s what makes work enjoyable – right?

“I started in this position during the pandemic, and it’s been very difficult to get to know people strictly over video. Coming back to the office allowed for that element of small talk and casual conversation that is so essential for connection. 

If you reach out to someone over chat or email, there's a purpose behind it. You’re not just saying “Hey, how are you doing?” or “what’s new?” In the office, you can actually have those candid conversations, which is a completely different element than what’s possible with exclusive remote work.”

- Miriam, Director of PR & Communications, One Planet Group

Some things have changed

Just because we’re back in the office doesn’t mean that we haven't had to make adjustments. When required we still have masks when moving around the office, many meetings are still virtual, and people are spaced out more than before, but at least we get to regain some normalcy and have the social interactions with our coworkers that we’ve all been craving.  It’s now rare that everyone in a meeting is present in person, so most meetings are now done via video calls. This has more to do with an expanded employee base, than the pandemic, but is still another change to be accounted for.

One Planet Group team members on video conference meeting

Transition takes time

While we’d like to have everyone back in the office full time, we understand that it is not a transition to be made overnight. As such, team members currently have the option to work from home two days a week. For some, it provides the opportunity to deep dive into projects without the distractions of co-workers. For others, it enables them to have more time in their days by eliminating the need to commute. 

“I consider myself an introvert, but coming to work satisfies my need for social interaction. After two years of being at home full-time during the pandemic, I feel like I need to be back.” 

- Armita, Chief Financial Officer, One Planet Group

The one downside everyone is talking about

There’s one thing that has come up numerous times as the worst part about coming back into the office: the dreaded commute. No longer are the mornings getting dressed, at least waist up and heading straight to the computer. It’s now time to put on real pants and get in the car to drive into the office. We get that it’s a hassle sometimes – but it’s worth it, right? 

“When working from home, all I have to do is wake up in the morning and head to my desk to get started on work. Now I have to get fully ready in the morning and make time to commute to the office before even starting my workday. Sure, I have to wake up earlier and put more thought into my morning routine, but at the same time, I love the fact that I get to see the team and interact with them in person instead of only over video chat.”

- Altoni, Creative Director, Buyerlink

We’re excited to be back

All in all, we’re excited to have our team back in the office. Ultimately, our intention is to bring everyone back to the office full time, but for now, we’re still sorting out our new normal and doing our best to balance the needs of our employees while protecting the internal culture that we worked so hard to build. 

The ability to share a laugh in the kitchen, pop by for a quick chat, or even having somewhere to work other than the kitchen table – everyone has different reasons as to why they are glad to be back. 

We understand that adjusting to life back in the office is hard, and we’re not going to do it overnight. The state of the world is still uncertain, and we are doing our best to navigate the current circumstances. In the end, we have so much to gain from coming back together. From building community, culture, and trust, to even the ability to share homemade cupcakes to celebrate someone’s birthday. These are the moments of connection that actually make work enjoyable. And we’re looking forward to getting more of that back in the office.