How A Global Gaming Company Is Managing Its Return To The Office
Although the employees at 2K spend much of their time creating immersive virtual worlds, they never expected to be working in one for so long.
The global gaming company closed its nine studios during the pandemic and have just recently begun returning to the office. Assistant facilities manager James Berti plays a key role in helping its 750 employees feel safe and comfortable as they come back. He spoke with us from 2K’s Novato, Calif. studio about how they’re managing physical distancing, cleaning, and more and what he’s looking forward to most about the future.
Tell us about office life at 2K before COVID.
It’s actually really funny because I was brought on board a month and a half before COVID. So I was the new guy for that first little period. And you know whenever you’re new in a company… you’re not going out and mingling as much as you may as you stay with the company longer. But from what I saw was just super, just such a dynamic company. Everyone was chatting, there were always fun engagements going on in the hallways. There would be group lunches every day. Because of the games that we put out, we’re very in tune with basketball and what’s on the market. I’ve heard there’s been a lot of fantasy league collaboration going on and it’s always just been a fun environment.
So it’s very exciting for me to see things start reopening and getting to see some of the faces of a lot of employees who I’ve been exchanging emails with for a year at this point.
What has been your role in managing the return to office so far?
One of the big things we’ve been responsible for is really making sure that during COVID, every studio has been able to feel supported and feel safe in terms of ensuring they have PPE, ensuring they have a good idea of how a safe office setup may be. We’re identifying high touchpoints that may need to be sanitized more frequently, where sanitizing stations should go, if there needs to be any particular office flow to reduce people walking by each other.
I’ve also helped in making sure that as people return, they are not within that six foot bracket or distancing parameter. So that’s been a huge way our office has been able to help, especially with Space-Right. We can see what spaces might be safe to utilize, if we had to close conference rooms, and identify what max capacities could be.
Can you tell us more how you planned your return to office and how iOFFICE and Space-Right supported you in that?
It first started off with HR sending out a survey just gauging who in fact wanted to come back and who felt safe to come back. And then based on those lists, we were able to see who was in too close a proximity to each other. iOFFICE has been extremely helpful in terms of moving employees to a temporary seat and tracking [seat assignments]. There’s a lot of moving parts. It’s like, okay, I may sit here, but because of a distance requirement, I’ve got to sit down the hall, but at some point things are going to get back to normal, so I’ll still need to know where the original seat that I had was.
When you’re dealing with dozens of employees coming back and that constant puzzle, iOFFICE has just been a huge help in making sure those records are accurate. We also collaborate a lot with IT in terms of setting up IT hardware and ensuring that they’ve got any electrical equipment they need. One thing that’s big in the gaming industry is a dev kit. So if an employee is coming back and needs a dev kit set up, iOFFICE’s space management software has been really helpful in order to track where the new spaces and where all that new equipment needs to be set up. And also through the space categories, we were able to build custom ones which allowed us to do a category showing who was in the office. So with a click of a button, we can quickly and easily get a color-coded map, showing exactly who’s in the office and whether or not they’re too close to someone else.
Other smaller studios run into that distancing issue a lot more frequently, so they’ve been able to pre-identify spaces that are safe for employees to come back in and then, based on who does come back in, assign them to a given seat.
Another thing that’s been huge is markers within iOFFICE, showing where are the PPE stations? Where are the hand sanitizer stations? Where are designated coffee pots that employees are allowed to use that are being sanitized frequently? It’s allowed us to have a one-stop shop of what the new office layout is, while still maintaining the record of what the office used to be like for the day when we finally get back to normal.
Have you used the Hummingbird workplace app or any other modules?
Yeah. When we first started our return-to-office discussions, we were exploring the idea of a flex work environment or hoteling. That did lead us to purchase the Hummingbird app and the reservation module. After we did that, there was an executive decision that we didn’t necessarily want to go to a flex work environment. But from the time I did play with it, booking desks was super easy, super efficient. Having Hummingbird on your phone was amazing because if I need to go and check out a desk, I can pull it up right on my phone and know exactly where I’m going. I can search for employees.
I actually have heard rumblings that flex work is being reintroduced a little bit. So I could see in the future, us using it a lot more.
Did you feel like the company culture suffered at all while everybody was remote?
Yeah. In the beginning, it was interesting because it was difficult to meet people that were outside of my department, or that I didn’t have the need to interact with every day. But with my team, in a weird sense it was nice because when we’re all in the building everyone, again is working, they’re focused on their stuff and we’re all going at a million miles an hour. We all have a ton of stuff to do, but when there was that halt to everything and we all worked from home, it almost allowed me to engage my colleagues, my immediate colleagues, one-on-one and build those one-on-one relationships because they weren’t moving a hundred miles an hour, at least in the beginning. But as you are home longer and longer and longer, you have this weird virtual perception of what these guys are like and you lose that interpersonal communication that you get when you’re talking face-to-face. So, as I was meeting new employees I was like, “man, it’d be really nice to be able to sit down and talk to you in person.” It was nice in a sense to really ease me into meeting my team and start getting that one-on-one conversation through a Zoom call, but the longer it went on, I really was desiring that face-to-face connection again.
What have the interactions been like now that you’ve gone back to the office? What has been most exciting for you?
There’s a lot to be excited about. I think the biggest thing is I don’t have to schedule Zoom meetings to have a conversation with somebody. You just walk over to someone’s desk and you’re like, “Hey, can we chat about this for five minutes?” And during work from home, it seemed like every single one of those interactions was turned into a 30-minute meeting and it might not necessarily have to be. So being able to once again have that human interaction has been super huge.
Also, it’s nice to be back in the office and remember a little bit what that work-home balance is like. When we were working from home, a lot of us I’ve heard, we feel like we’re obligated to be at our computer all the time and really be focused on work because we aren’t in the office. Having been back, it’s been great because when I’m at work, I’m here, I’m working. And then I go home and maybe I check my phone a little bit, see if any emails come in. But that boundary has come back, which is awesome.
What about the tournaments? Do you make time to play now that you’re back?
Yeah, it’s cool. We have video game consoles set up in our lobby, and I haven’t seen them get fully back to use as of yet, but I’m really excited because as a 2K fan and as just a huge basketball fan, I’m very competitive. It hasn’t gotten back to where it was before COVID, but I’m super excited for when it gets back there because you can be sure I’ll be down there competing and definitely getting my fantasy team picked.
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