Return to office plans take shape

The Guild met with Times Union Publisher George Hearst Friday afternoon for nearly 80 minutes to discuss planning for the safe return to the Albany Shaker Road main offices.

President Amanda Fries and Vice President Ken Crowe represented the Guild.

The Hearst Corp. is developing plans for about 200 offices that the company runs. Nearly everyone is working at home. The Times Union provided information to corporate (The Tower) that includes the number of desks, number of work stations and square footage for the initial planning.

It appears it will be about 50 days before there is a chance to reopen the office. When it happens it will be a different environment from what we saw in the past. George Hearst said the company is being conservative in moving ahead.

The Joint Standing Committee was convened at the Guild’s request to follow up on questions we submitted regarding plans for reopening the office.

The return to the office will occur in phases under one of two scenarios. The Tower is looking at floor plans that will have seven to 10 feet of social distance. The company has promised to make the proposed floor plans available to us. You will have an opportunity to review them.

The phased return is based on categories employees fall into, and are as follows:

  • Phase I: Production — Those whose jobs such as artists, layout, etc. are considered to be best performed in the plant.

  • Phase 2: Voluntary — People who desire to return to work in the office setting. We had members who didn’t want to work from home and others who are eager to get back to their desks.

  • Phase 3: Vulnerable — Colleagues who may have health issues and don’t want to take risks.

  • Phase 4: Don’t want to return — Colleagues who may be anxious or fearful about returning to the building, or those who may have child care concerns.

  • Phase 5: Everyone else

The beginning of the phased return will start with about 35 percent of the workforce at the main office, and could include a rotation of employees working at the office a few days a week or every other week, for example.

For those not immediately returning to the office, Human Resources Manager Ruth Fantasia said the company will work to get personal items boxed so you can pick them up.

Hearst said the company would accommodate anyone who has childcare issues due to schools not reopening, summer camps being unavailable, or other situations.

As with the floorplans, this is an ongoing and fluid project for the company. Some managers have asked the workers they supervise if they want to return to the building. The department heads are supposed to gather this information.

Personal protective equipment such as masks will be provided. There will be opportunities for cleaning up also. Desks will be kept clear of items to facilitate regular deep-cleaning. They’ve been inside the building cleaning since we left, and may have moved items on top of your desk to your chair or underneath your desk.

The company also will be taking body temperatures before coming into the building, and if it’s above normal you will be unable to enter the building. Guests also will be screened. If your temperature is high, you will be advised to contact your primary care physician, or use telemedicine.

We also discussed the opening of a circulation depot in Kingston that’s to be staffed by our district manager colleagues. We are seeking additional information, reviewing the contract and consulting with international Guild staff to make sure DM’s concerns are considered.

We continued efforts to seek reimbursement for unit members who aren’t receiving compensation for using their cell phones and personal equipment.

Anyone who needs equipment should speak to their supervisor about buying it. George Hearst and Ruth Fantasia said the company will pay for necessary equipment. We have a member who is being reimbursed for buying an Ethernet cable.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Guild office, the Executive Board members or a steward.

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