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When can we co-locate once again?

Chief Human Resources Officer

Georgette Verdin | Chief Human Resources Officer

Switching gears after the past few months expounding on leadership and management, I’ll turn to a question that many of us are asking (and being asked): When can we all return to the office?

The answer here at AVROBIO: We don’t really know. The truth is, the answer depends on several factors.

In part, it’s contingent on how society behaves (vaccinations, wearing masks, keeping your bubble tight and managing the six-foot distance in public places) to best cope with COVID-19 contagion. And, on the long-term efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.

There’s a lot to think through. And it’s complicated. We have found no one source has all the answers to all our questions, and no one source is definitive in its explanations. Instead, we have tried to find a neutral source of data and used it as our consistent source throughout[1]. Topline take-aways for AVROBIO:

  • As a global company with employees on four continents, we know that different countries, and different regions, will be vaccinated at different rates. We need to stay flexible and alert to adjust to local conditions based on the data we look at for COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates across Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia.
  • For our employees who have kids under the age of 16, we know that it will be well into the Fall before their younger kids can be vaccinated. This means that we need to continue to support our working parents as they navigate summer camp and fall school plans with their kids potentially not yet vaccinated.
  • Even as vaccines ramp up and we work toward the ultimate goal of co-locating in the workplace, we will need to continue to wear masks in public and keep our distance. Until ongoing research shows otherwise, fully vaccinated people may still transmit COVID-19 to others. CDC guidance is clear that fully immunized people are advised to maintain a close social circle, can meet in small groups, without mask wearing and social distancing, but we’re going to have to remain vigilant in public spaces, at work, on public transport and at schools as they reopen.

Based on the evolving data, at AVROBIO we will embrace a slow and deliberate process in returning the full crew to the workplace. We will continue to make all the necessary accommodations to have our crew mates in the lab work safely, but at this time, we do not anticipate starting to return everyone to the office until mid to-late fall, 2021. Many of us are craving to get together and to work side-by-side like we used to (me included). But our safety as individuals, the safety of our families and the safety of the AVROBIO community has to come first.

Instead, we will keep our focus on supporting our employees to work effectively from home and keep a close eye on developments both with COVID-19 rates and vaccination rates in our countries of interest.  I’d like to share with you two podcasts and two articles that unpack some of the more subtle considerations that we are taking into account about mask wearing and co-locating once again. They help us better understand the answers to some of the questions being asked.

Podcasts:

  • The Day Everything Changed: Fauci, Collins Reflect On 1 Year of The Pandemic, from “Consider This.” These two scientific leaders advise that co-locating in the workplace won’t happen till mid-late Fall 2021. They talk about how they worked with leaders in the U.S to educate the public on the virus, and their concerns about the proliferation of disinformation. Listen here.
  • The COVID 19 Endemic from “Podcast-19.” In this report, they discuss the endgame of the pandemic; in their view, it’s likely not to be herd immunity, so how should people behave once they’re vaccinated? They talk about the risks and what’s safe among the vaccinated population. Listen here.

Articles:

These two pieces help us understand more about COVID-19 and what many are doing to wrap their arms around the virus, improve the vaccine and increase distribution; given all that, we consider many of the issues CEOs are taking into account governing R2B2.

  • If you enjoy going deep on the coronavirus as a lay person, this NYT piece will be up your alley. The author covers a lot of real estate on the issue, from the investigational low-cost vaccine NDV-HXP-S (and how it got its acronym), what are those spike proteins everyone keeps talking about, and the unbelievably complex and organized global supply chain around vaccine production and distribution.
  • This Harvard Business Review piece lays out for CEOs, and by extension for all of us, what needs to be considered in returning to the office as we’ve known it. There are a lot of factors involved. The author puts forward six principles and cautions not to make the decision too early or over-rely on employee surveys as the most important source of data.

If you have any other articles or podcasts you would recommend as we continue to build our knowledge and prepare us for the future, please share in the comments to this blog. This is something that will take multiple perspectives for us to solve.

[1] At AVROBIO we have used the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center as our primary source of data