Interview today with Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of Red Banyan, a crisis management Public Relations firm.
1. When did your team begin working returning to the office?
a. Back in March when lockdowns began to take place throughout the country, Red Banyanfollowed suit in an effort to keep our employees and clients safe. We started bringing back members of the team to our Florida office in August, although our offices in Washington D.C., Atlanta and our newest L.A. location continue to operate remotely. Red Banyan has given our team members the choice to work wherever they feel safe and comfortable. As long as work is continuing to be successful for our clients, then where our employees are physically located shouldn’t matter. And throughout this pandemic, Red Banyan’s employees haven’t missed a beat.
2. How did you communicate with your employees regarding expectations related to remote work or returning to the office?
a. During the past few months working at home, Red Banyan has continued our morning daily huddle video call to connect with one another face to face. After careful consideration and following the latest state guidelines, Red Banyan’s Florida employees were alerted via email and slack about plans to reopen the office. Each team member was given a couple of weeks to decide whether returning to the office felt right for them. I’ve never been concerned for a moment that there was anyone on the team that didn’t understand what he or she needed to do. Our team is very clear on what the expectations are in terms of getting work done for our clients. There are no expectations with regards to returning to the office; each employee is welcome to come or to stay at home, no questions asked.
3. What steps did you take to protect employees before they returned?
a. Before our employees officially returned to the office, we hired a cleaning company to come in and sanitize the entire space. Now that about half of our employees are back to working in the office, every surface is being wiped down and sanitized on a daily basis. We purchased an abundance of PPE supplies, from face masks to hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays, in order to make sure it is available to everyone in the office. Now, with fewer people coming in than before, we have the ability to give each in-office employee his or her own office. Our building is taking far reaching steps to create a safe working environment as well.
4. How has the office changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?
a. The office is a lot quieter with half the people. There is less banter and fewer conversations or congregations around the water cooler. With everyone in his/her own office, employees have been extremely dialed into their work. However, we felt it was important to stay socially connected even though many of us have to be physically separated. That is why we host weekly Zoom happy hours, trivia nights and set aside times for our team members to share slideshows of their vacation pictures. It has been a way to have some fun and stay connected.
5. Do you find your team able to operate effectively working remote?
a. Without a doubt, our team hasn’t missed a beat throughout this entire process. Accountability is one of our core values at Red Banyan. I never doubted for a moment that my team would be able to maintain the same standards of excellence, even while working from home.
6. What’s been the biggest challenge to not having a full team in the office?
a. Our biggest challenge has been making sure that our remote workers are every bit as informed on all the details as everyone physically in the office. Making sure there is no separation between those that are coming in and those at home is something we’ve been able to work towards overcoming with implementing new technology. But as a strategic communications firm, we have a team of excellent communicators which makes it easier to keep lines of communication open and productive.
7. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from the pandemic?
a. The culture that Red Banyan has built during this pandemic is incredibly strong. It has been heartening to witness the many ways our team has banded together in the face of new challenges created by the pandemic. It has made me so incredibly proud of what we have created together: a supportive and collaborative environment where every member thrives not just professionally, but also personally.
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