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Managing an empty office

An interview with our Office Manager Bjørn Øyvind Bue in an extraordinary time.

Thursday 07 May

Hi Bjørn Øyvind!

Tell us about your role at Prototyp? What does a normal (pre-Covid-19) work day look like?

I've been working part-time at Prototyp since February 2019 as an Office Manager. That is a role with a lot of different responsibilities. I'm doing everything from taking care of all our plants and buying everything we need for our daily routines, to making smoothies for everyone and fixing birthday cakes when it's someone's birthday. I'm also planning events and conferences, and making sure the office space always is evolving. We want the office of Prototyp to feel like a second home to everyone's working here.

Covid-19 has changed the way we work, collaborate and meet fundamentally, maybe forever. What have you learned so far when it comes to taking care of you colleagues, making sure they are ok and maintaining a sense of team spirit?

It's quite strange to be an Office Manager without an office, but it makes it even more important for me to be creative and find new responsibilities. It has become quite clear to everyone, I think, that even though we see each other quite often in digital meetings, we still have the need to see and talk to our colleagues in settings where we can discuss other things than work. Normally we would have these opportunities during lunch time or by the coffee machine. Now we have to find other alternatives for these random conversations.

Can you mention concrete examples of things you have done that have been appreciated?

I'm arranging digital after work quizzes every Thursday, just so we can meet and socialize in a different setting. I sent Easter eggs in the post to everyone which I think was quite appreciated. I'm also, together with our interior decorator, doing some changes at the office, so it will hopefully be even better to return when that time comes.

What would you say is most important to maintain and focus on during the pandemic, when it comes to social aspects and other factors that happen "between the lines" at a workplace and may be hard to define?

It's important to remember that i's a much bigger step to call or text someone, instead of just having a short conversation when you pass each other in the hallway. Prototyp has grown into a firm where the social day-to-day life is a big factor of why everyone likes to come in to the office. When we now no longer have that opportunity it's very important to create possibilities for digital social meetings so we can still have those «meaningless» conversations that glue us together as colleagues and friends. Prototyp has a long history of distributed/remote work (one office is based in Barcelona).

What have you learned during the years, that benefits your organisation under these, new, circumstances?

The developers at Prototyp have for a long time been able to work from home if they want. Everyone is used to check into our daily standups no matter where they sit and work. This means that Covid-19 hasn't really changed the way we work. Except for me, who can't really do my normal chores digitally and have to find new ways to work What we do know is that everyone at Prototyp prefer to sit in the office and work anyway, so that they can socialize, have improvised work-related meetings and also more casual conversations. This means that it's important to maintain some of that feeling, even though we cant physically meet these days.