Return to office plan

What does Return to Office mean?

“Return to office” means bringing employees back to the office, site by site. This is not hybrid work or what our future of work will look like, but a first step in safely welcoming those employees who need to, or choose to, come back to the office in the coming months. While it may not look or feel the same as it did before the pandemic, the Return to Office project will ensure that we are protecting the health and safety of staff while we bring more people back to the office.  

What will be the same?

Those who return will join the employees who have continued to work on-site during the pandemic. Among the familiar faces and reconnections will be the same office areas, shared spaces and operations. But there will also be many changes to ensure everyone has a positive and safe office experience. 

What will be different?

There will be changes across three dimensions: increased site safety, increased space use and integration of on and off-site work

  • Management of Safety: To ensure our spaces are safe with the addition of more employees, Indoor Air Quality will be aligned to health and safety guidelines. All of our COVID-19 safety measures will remain and be adjusted in response to the evolving pandemic environment. 
  • Management of Space: Administrative staff returning to the office may need to book seats through a booking system. The user-friendly booking system will be accessible via a smartphone app or from a web browser. Using the booking system will help fully assess how the space is being used. This is especially important while we have restrictions such as physical distancing. Over time, as public health and government restrictions change, the booking system will respond, enabling us to adjust to staff and team needs of workspace.  
  • Reintegrated Work: To fully enable integration of returning employees to sites and provide a positive work experience, RTO will provide the means of reconnecting people with inclusive use of remote/virtual work modes. 

Return to Office Planning Q&A

Where are we with RTO planning?

The Return to Office project team is now planning to welcome more employees in a phased, site by site approach who wish to or need to return to the office by end of May.  

Timeline:  

March 2022 

Throughout the month of March, the project team piloted the transition at the Lancaster site in Ottawa and Dartmouth. Employees tested the RTO workspace booking system and the reintegration experience. The pilot enables us to take a test and learn approach to ensure we are preparing sites and employees for success. Through feedback and input on the experience, we are assessing our approach as we work towards introducing RTO across the country.  

April 2022 

Following the pilot, the project team is making any necessary adjustments to fine-tune the process. We anticipate introducing RTO to the following sites first: 

Saint John, Carling (Ottawa), Hamilton, Saskatoon, Edmonton.  

May 2022 

The site-by-site openings will continue throughout the month of May: 

St. John’s, Concourse Gate/Lancaster/Alta Vista (Ottawa), 67 College (Toronto), Brampton, London, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver 

Summer 

Monitoring and supporting those returned and gathering key learnings. 

* Note that these dates and plans may change depending on the course of the evolving pandemic. 

If you have been identified as someone who wants to, or needs to return at these sites, your manager will be in touch with details on your return. 

We will continue to share details about plans for the Return to Office project as those details become available, and we appreciate your patience and adaptability as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Will the sites be assessed for air quality and ventilation to ensure all buildings are safe for when more people return?

We are constantly reviewing and optimizing our safety measures in our environments based on Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) being part of the Return to Office (RTO) planning.  Since COVID-19 can spread through the air, it is crucial that we take measures to ensure we take a diligent approach to ensuring the quality of indoor air in our workplaces. 

We have developed IAQ measures to assess and monitor ventilation, filtration, thermal comfort and air balancing. The implementation of RTO includes site by site assessment and alignment of occupancy to systems’ capacity or application of additional measures to align to IAQ standards. 
 
Additional measures may include increased ventilation, additional filtration and enhanced monitoring. Where buildings are leased, we will be working with landlords to measure and provide ventilation to align with guidelines. 

In addition to the preparatory measures taken prior to ensure air quality prior to welcoming more employees back to the office, we will continuously monitor our ventilation systems to ensure air quality is maintained after people have returned.  If you have any questions related to air quality in your workplace, please contact your supervisor.  Air quality inquiries can be directed to Ask.Facilities@blood.ca and OHS & EHS. 

How is the RTO project team group determining how to safely configure space? 

Managers and supervisors were asked to survey their teams to determine who needed or wanted to return to the office. If you indicated that you would like to return, or need to return, this information was shared with the RTO planning team to ensure that all who plan to return can do so safely. As we continue planning for more employees to return, we are confirming how many employees we can safely welcome back onsite based on the demand and the amount of space available in each facility.  

Team needs will vary, and space will be configured to meet those needs. The frequency and use of our spaces will also vary considerably – from full time to a few times a week or less than once per week. All of this impacts the type, characteristics and quality of spaces needed.    

Supply of space is limited to the current space types and configurations, with limits on occupancy per public health measures. We are working with current configurations of space and current public health measures.  

Will I be able to return a couple days a week to the office and continue to work remotely the rest of the time? 

Canadian Blood Services is supportive of flexible work arrangements where it is operationally feasible and cost effective. At this time, only employees who need to be back in the office based on operational need, have been permitted to return. For employees who want to return a couple of days a week, we are currently working on a plan to determine what needs to be put in place in the coming months to ensure employees can safely return to the office. We expect to start welcoming all employees, who wish to work from the office, by late May. 

I’m currently on-site and nervous about more people sharing our space. How can we be assured we are safe and limiting the spread of COVID-19?

Before we bring anyone back, we do a complete assessment of the site to ensure it is safe to welcome more people. This includes examining and improving air quality systems and determining if the space can handle an increase in people while allowing physical distancing. Employees will be expected to continue to follow the preventative measures we have in place: wellness self-assessment before coming onsite, masking and physical distancing requirements and everyone is required to follow the guidelines for shared spaces such as meeting rooms, break rooms, washrooms, etc. In addition, all employees working onsite have the option to self-test with our rapid screening program. 

At this time, a limited number of employees are returning to each site. Employees can be assured there won’t be a significant increase in people onsite during this phase. 

I have changed my mind about how many days I need to be in the office. What should I do?

Please consult with your manager or supervisor about your new plans to ensure they coordinate with the site. Once sites are open, the Condeco booking system will be available to staff to book workstations. Staff can use this to change when they are on site. If you were designated as remaining virtual, your manager can request that you be assigned to the booking system. 

How does adding new hires or departing team members impact the return to office plan?

If a new employee needs to or wants to work in the office, they will work with their manager and the RTO team to ensure that there is enough space for a potential extra person. Priority is given to those employees who need to be onsite to do their job. If a person working onsite departs the organization, the RTO team will ensure that spot is opened up and necessary adjustments will be made.  

What happens if my team is divided, with some working from home and some working in the office? Won’t that impact our ability to collaborate equitably?

During the RTO phase, the priority is to safely welcome those who need to or want to return. We are a national organization and many supervisors/managers have team members in various regions that have already leveraged technology to collaborate so you may see some colleagues in the office and some at home. To fully enable integration of returning employees to sites and provide a positive work experience, the RTO team will provide the means of reconnecting people with inclusive use of remote/virtual work modes much like we did before COVID. Employees will be encouraged to continue using Microsoft Teams for meetings so that everyone is included equally.  

Will the RTO plans change if COVID-19 variants cause an increase in cases?

We will continue to monitor cases and provincial guidelines across the country, and as always, our decisions will be informed by case counts, vaccination rates and government or public health guidance and requirements. Our priority is to offer more employees the opportunity to return to the office, as long as it is safe to do so. Changes to occupancy limits of the site will be done via controls in the booking system and be communicated to site management.

Do I need to return (ever) if my work can be done virtually?

As our work progresses on this project, we are also developing a future vision for our workplace. As these two projects work in parallel, the Future of Work project may be informed by the experiences of the Return to Office project.  

This work will help us answer questions on how we want to operate as individuals, teams and as an organization in the hopes of adopting a flexible work environment where the focus is on a safe and welcoming transition process. 

Canadian Blood Services is supportive of flexible work arrangements where it is operationally feasible and cost effective. 

I am having personal challenges at home, and I am not comfortable sharing. How can I express my need to come back to the office confidentially.

If you have a personal reason for returning to office, you can express this to your manager or supervisor and do not need to share the reason. If you and your supervisor have differing opinions, and you need support, please reach out to your PCP business partner. 

Booking office spaces/Shared spaces

Will returning employees sit at their own desks?

In order to safely return people to the office, the RTO team developed a system that allows employees to sit with enough physical distance between each desk or occupy enclosed offices. A booking system was implemented, called Condeco, which takes each site’s configuration and maps out what spots are available. This system can be accessed from your mobile or desktop.  

Team needs will vary, and space will be configured to meet those needs. The frequency and use of our spaces will also vary considerably – from full time to a few times a week or less than once per week. All of this impacts the type, characteristics and quality of spaces needed.  

Engagement sessions with leaders help create site-level solutions. This includes minimizing any disruption to operations and how employees currently work. 

There are exceptions for certain departments. For instance, teams that require privacy and secured storage including Legal, Finance and certain teams within PCP may require designated space and others will not be permitted to book those areas.  

We will continuously monitor and consult with site leaders to address any issues around seat sharing.

Does this mean others will be potentially sitting at my desk?

Yes, it is possible, and your supervisor/manager will communicate the plan for your site and specific workstation.   

We understand that sharing your desk may be new and is an opportunity to transition to a new way of working.  . A booking system that opens up as many spots as possible is the best solution to ensure those working on-site have ample space and stay safe. We hope that employees will understand and see this as an opportunity to try a flexible, open way of working; to see their usual desk as their colleague’s desk too.

How do I prepare for a shared space transition?

There are a few steps to work towards sharing desk space. First, if you have indicated that you are not returning, or coming back part time, or have volunteered your desk for others to use, the RTO team will work with your supervisor/manager to plan the use of space. This could entail “depersonalizing” your desk; or doing a “spring clean” of your storage and filing areas. You will be engaged and involved along the way. 

My team needs a private area due to sensitivities in our roles. Can we have a designated area?

Yes, the RTO team is working with supervisors/managers to determine which teams will need a designated area for privacy and security purposes.  

Our team would prefer to sit together to enable collaboration. Is this possible?

The booking system allows people to see where others have booked a space, so if you would like to sit near a friend or team colleague, you may have the option to do so. You can also book for another colleague and there are no limits to how many colleagues you can book at once. You can also book a workspace up to two weeks in advance.  

What if I need to book a quiet space to focus?

All you need to do is find available space that supports your need for quiet focus through the booking system.

What happens with offices/cubicles that are being used as storage? Do we need to free those up?

Yes. Everyone is responsible to help ensure that sites, offices and cubicles are being used as intended. Some areas need a ‘Spring Clean Up’. We must all be diligent about keeping our spaces tidy by taking personal items home, regularly reviewing files to digitize or recycle as appropriate and critically reviewing if an item must be stored.

How do I book a meeting space?

Meeting spaces can continue to be booked through Outlook as before, but can also be booked through the Condeco booking system.

My role sometimes require that I travel to other sites. How do I book space at another site?

The booking system allows you to search and book a workspace at any of our sites, for the day you are visiting.

When will Canadian Blood Services be reopening its fitness rooms?

Fitness rooms are being assessed for air quality standards. We will reopen fitness rooms on a site-by-site basis following readiness assessment. We recognize and appreciate that the availability of fitness space is important for employees’ physical and mental health. 

Considerations include: air filtration, size of gyms, capacity limits, availability of the facilities teams to maintain additional space and the need for a booking system. More information will be shared as the fitness rooms are ready to reopen.