As you may have seen from our previous wrap posts, we’ve talked quite a bit about the return to the physical workplace during our meetups. Last week, we focused on one particular proposal: cyclic reopening.

A science-based exit strategy for COVID-19 from Weizmann Institute on Vimeo.

Anne wrote about a longer TED talk on this topic with biologist, Uri Alon, in our Friday Faves last week, however we watched the above short video during the meetup as a quick primer and jumping off point. Essentially, the idea behind this proposal is to work in the office for 4 days, then go into lockdown for 10 days. The idea behind this is based on the known biology of coronaviruses, and that if you become infected it takes around 4 days for you to become contagious – so even if you were infected on your first day back at the office, you would not become contagious until you were already back in lockdown.

For many of us, that would mean working from home during the 10 day period, though of course, not all jobs have this luxury and whether it’s possible or appropriate to operate, say, a manufacturing plant, on a cyclic schedule as proposed is a question to which we certainly don’t have a firm answer. Additionally, there are other considerations, such as getting buy-in from employees – and unions – to vary conditions, such as a 4 day work week with longer hours, followed by 10 days off.

However, for our meetup group, we are all working in organisations who are either already fully distributed, such as us here at Ripple Effect Group, or who had the flexibility to work from home occasionally, pre-COVID, or else in organisations in which employees had become ‘suddenly remote’ with the onset of the lockdowns. With the ability for work to continue outside the physical workplace, the cyclical reopening becomes particularly intriguing as a way of phasing the return to the office, especially where this is done in two groups – group A working 4 days in the office on week 1, followed by group B working 4 days in the office on week 2, then group A returns on week 3, etc – allowing for reduced numbers which will aid in the ability to allow for social distancing within the office space. Of course, questions of safety – even simply the perception of safety – remain, and collectively the group felt that flexibility and choice for employees wherever possible would continue to be an important part of any return to the workplace plan.

We also discussed the possibility of “COVID-rage”, such as on public transport or in queues in shops. While ‘rage’ hadn’t quite been experienced as yet by any of our meetup attendees, there had certainly been instances of “tutting” for sneezing or being told off by others for either getting too close or being perceived to be too close to someone else. How might these experiences continue to manifest themselves, particularly as some people begin to feel less safe as we push towards a reopening across our communities? As an organisation, how will we prevent these issues from raising themselves in the workplace? And how will we support our employees and their mental health if they are experiencing such things outside the workplace – perhaps on their commute to and from the office? And how will we make space for people who simply are not ready to return to the physical workplace – or just don’t want to go back to commuting every day?

Join us this week on Friday 12 June at 8am Sydney time as we continue to explore these questions, and many more – like what will nightclubs look like in the immediate future and will we start to see a return to the dinner & a show clubs you see in old Hollywood movies? RSVP on meetup.


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