News & Politics

Washington Post Plans Three-Phase Office Reopening

Meeting spaces will be retooled this summer to accommodate both “'roomies' and 'zoomies.'”

Photograph by Evy Mages

Washington Post employees will begin to return to the DC office in June and should be working at least part time in the office by mid-September. That’s according to a memo to employees Wednesday from VP of HR Wayne Connell,  whose missive fleshes out a plan that Post Publisher Fred Ryan announced in March. One change from Ryan’s early announcement: 20 percent, instead of 10 percent, of each department can apply to begin working on Franklin Square during “Phase One” of the Post’s reopening, which will begin on July 6.

The Post won’t require employees to be vaccinated to return to the office, “but we do strongly encourage it,” Connell writes. Anyone who wants to return with the earlybirds will have to demonstrate that at least two weeks have passed since their full dose was acquired.

The next phase will begin for volunteers on August 9 and include Post employees who work in satellite offices. The goal is 40 percent of employees in the offices. Phase Three begins September 13. It will include all employees and will initiate a period of evaluation until the end of the year during which employees can work up to two days per week at home. If you want to continue working from home full-time, you’ll need approval from the vice president of your department. The Post “will assess the operational impact of this additional flexibility to determine whether to extend this work from home option (or a variation) beyond 2021,” Connell writes.

The company plans to outfit meeting areas this summer with “technology that facilitates conferencing between ‘roomies’ and ‘zoomies.’” Roomies will breathe air that’s filtered, purified, and monitored and encounter hands-free faucets, foot door pulls, and other surface-avoidance aids.

Here’s the memo:

To All Post Employees & Contractors,

With more than half of the U.S. adult population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, and with vaccines becoming widely available, we are working toward a phased return to the D.C. office beginning July 6, with satellite offices beginning to return on August 9. We have also heard from many of you regarding an interest in participating in the first phase, and believe we can safely increase the percentage from 10 to 20 percent of each department. Here are the parameters of each phase:

How to Volunteer for Phase One
If your role is based in D.C. and you would like to volunteer for Phase One, click here to complete the form on GuidePost by May 19. On May 20, we will separate lists by department, determine the target number to reach 20%, and deliver to each VP who will select names from the list. We will notify all volunteers on June 2 whether you were selected for Phase One. If you volunteer but aren’t selected, not to worry – we will place your name at the top of the list for Phase Two. If selected, plan to work in the office at least three days per week to help us develop a good sense of what’s working and what isn’t. You can work with your manager to determine which days in the office make sense for you and the needs of the team.

We ask that all volunteers be fully vaccinated by July 6, meaning at least two weeks have passed since your second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or since your single Johnson & Johnson shot. To be clear, we will not require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of returning to the workplace, but we do strongly encourage it.

Precautions in the D.C. Building
We have taken several precautions to ensure a safe work environment, including:
1.CDC Guidelines: We will follow CDC guidelines regarding masking, social distancing, etc. Click here to see the current version, which was last updated on April 27. We anticipate more changes between now and then and will email the latest guidelines to all Phase One volunteers as we approach July 6.
2.Health Check App: Our ID badges are sourced through Kastle Systems. Kastle has a free health check app known as KastlePresence that is compatible with iOS and Android devices. Click here for a brief YouTube video of this app. All volunteers will need to download KastlePresence before July 6. Then, each morning before arrival, you will need to open the app and answer a few health-related questions, (e.g., whether you are running a fever, etc.). Importantly, answering these questions every morning activates your ID badge. If you don’t answer them, your badge won’t open any doors. This is a way of reminding us all to stay home if we aren’t feeling well and help keep our work environment safe. Using this app will replace the current process of temperature screenings on the 4th floor.
3.Air Filtration: One Franklin Square is a LEED-certified building, which means we already use MERV-13 air filters that are changed quarterly. While we have been away from the office, we have installed CO2 meters on every floor and placed air purifiers in all conference, team, and huddle rooms. These steps, combined with others managed by Hines, ensure that 80% to 90% of the air in our office space is refreshed every hour.
4.Surfaces: In the restrooms, we’ve installed foot door pulls and touchless soap and paper towel dispensers. In the kitchen pantries, we are replacing faucets with either hands-free or minimal-touch dispensers. And we’ve added hand sanitizer stations to all meeting rooms.

Facilities in the D.C. Building
The D.C. building will likely be in a state of transition over the summer. We are working to outfit all meeting spaces with zoom-ready technology that facilitates conferencing between “roomies” and “zoomies.” Some conference rooms will be zoom-ready by July 6, while others will take more time. Also, the rooftop terrace, penthouses, and fitness center remain closed. Hines will defer to DC guidelines before reopening, so it’s unclear whether these spaces will be available on July 6. However, the terraces in our suite, located on floors 5 and 6, will be open to any Post employee or contractor who would like to use them. Also, the building remains in “weekend mode,” meaning all exterior doors are locked and require your ID badge to unlock them. Hines has agreed to revisit this practice as occupancy increases.

Pandemic-era Hires
Since we first vacated our offices in March of last year, we have hired 400+ people. Of those, more than half are based in D.C. We are eagerly awaiting the day when we can welcome you to The Post in person! For those who volunteer and are selected, we have designed a special onboarding process to ensure you receive basics like a seat assignment, ID badge, and building tour, among other things. We will send a separate email to all of you soon that will expand on these ideas and address other questions, so stay tuned.

Also, hiring won’t stop after July 6, so anyone hired after this date will begin their first day in the office on Sept. 13 along with all employees not already participating in the early phases.

Satellite Offices Begin in Phase Two
If all goes well in D.C. for Phase One, we will launch a new form on GuidePost for Phase Two volunteers on July 20. Phase Two will be open to employees based in all office locations, including D.C., Chicago, London, NYC, and San Francisco. You will have until July 26 to submit the form. On July 27, we will divide the lists by location and department, determine the target number to reach 40% for each location, deliver to VPs, and ask them to make selections. We will notify volunteers by Aug. 2, with your first day in the office being Aug. 9. We will also send more detailed communications to employees based in each of our satellite locations, including precautions and protocols specific to each building, so stay tuned.

Phase Three & Working from Home
We anticipate that all employees will be returning to their appropriate office location beginning Monday, Sept. 13. As we return to the workplace, we will be assessing the effectiveness of hybrid work tools as well as the needs of employees and the organization. We anticipate this period of evaluation will last through the end of the year and during this time, employees can work from home up to two days a week, assuming your work can be performed effectively from home.

Individual schedules, including which days you work in the office, will be approved by your manager, and will be based on the needs of the department. Please keep in mind that even once these schedules are confirmed, there may be occasions (such as an all-team meeting) when you might be expected to come to the office on a previously scheduled work-from-home day. Also, please remember that working from home needs to work for both the employee and the team and in some instances may not be feasible. We will assess the operational impact of this additional flexibility to determine whether to extend this work from home option (or a variation) beyond 2021. Finally, please note that working full-time from a remote location will require approval from the department’s VP.

There is much more to do, and we will keep you posted along the way. In the meantime, you can always reach out to me, Tracy Grant, or Gregg Fernandes with questions. You can also send an email to questions@washpost.com.

Many thanks,
Wayne

 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.