How one receptionist takes on a new front desk and transforming role
Over the past few weeks, a series of new conversations have sparked regarding the future of the workplace and the new normal that we’re all facing.
Workers are returning to offices with the need to adhere to new safety measures, such as less desk sharing and large plastic shields to protect receptionists and other employees from the possible spread of COVID-19. Some governments have already laid out plans for entire office re-designs to help with social distancing.
But this concept of the future workplace brings up conversations beyond office design.
This International Receptionist’s Day (May 13, 2020), we applaud and honor all of the receptionists and front desk staff who are struggling to do their tasks from home, those who are temporarily or permanently unemployed, and those who had to remain at the frontlines of their office buildings during this crisis.
We also wonder: how might their roles, particularly those in essential industries, change amidst global pandemics? Will receptionists feel confident in returning to their normal duties, with new safety measures and the right front desk technologies in place?
To further understand the receptionist’s perspective during this time, we spoke with a front desk receptionist at MacroGenics, a Maryland-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops cancer treatment drugs.
Q&A with Thelma Bryant, Receptionist Supervisor at MacroGenics
While working remotely, Receptionist Supervisor Thelma Bryant discusses how MacroGenics has handled the health crisis thus far, how she feels about a return to the front desk, and the future of her role.
Let’s start by discussing your current remote working situation. Tell us what that’s like as a receptionist.
Thelma Bryant: Yes, so I am currently working from home, but there's currently an executive assistant who is taking my place at the front desk back at the office. My mom lives with me, and she’s in her 80s and has medical issues, so I didn’t want to risk going into the office.
Right now, I’m still involved in regular communications with administrative teams and HR. I’m able to see phone calls that roll over, so I pick those up remotely and forward them. I may also have a few administrative things here and there that I do for my boss. But that’s really all I can do right now as a receptionist working from home.
MacroGenics is a biopharmaceutical company that manufactures cancer drugs, which makes it essential. Is everyone else still working on the premises right now?
Thelma: The only people working on the premises are those involved with the manufacturing of a cancer drug that we’re in the process of rolling out. These people are seen as essential, and they’re working comfortably and safely in small (yet distanced) groups. They’re also taking advantage of big bottles of hand sanitizer placed around the building.
How is MacroGenics handling visitors right now, if any?
Thelma: We use Proxyclick to manage our visitors. Prior to the crisis, we were taking advantage of two front desk kiosks. Since lockdowns started, we’ve taken one down. We’ve stationed the other one away from the front desk, towards the front foyer, so that anyone who enters is at a safe distance from front desk staff.
We don’t currently have Proxyclick integrated with access control doorways or turnstiles. But we’re a locked facility, so visitors do need to have an appointment and to ring a bell to get in through two doorways.
I have also been taking advantage of the ability to use Proxyclick on my own computer from home, which has been very convenient. I like that I have the flexibility to go into the system and check people out or manage visitors for my boss remotely.
Did MacroGenics incorporate any additional health and safety features, such as custom questionnaires at check-in to better understand guests' health situations?
Thelma: Following lockdown procedures, MacroGenics definitely restricted access to visitors. Nobody has been able to enter the building unless they are deemed essential, such as specific vendors or manufacturing teams. And they don’t interact directly with the front desk.
As for additional safety features, leadership is in talks of rolling out a temperature check when employees start to come back to the office.
We also plan to implement social distancing rules, so people will be spaced apart. Our managers are consistently meeting on this everyday, and still planning for back to work procedures.
I think it would be really great to use Proxyclick's safety features to understand and screen visitors before they arrive, and to provide them with the necessary information about coming on site.
What has your company done to help keep the premises sanitized right now?
Thelma: We have cleaning teams that come in more regularly. Since we are in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, we already had teams coming in to sterilize equipment. But our teams are now more regularly wiping down doorways and other surfaces every few hours. Our facility team is deemed essential and works at all three buildings on our campus to keep everything clean.
Let’s talk about your company’s process of communicating COVID-19 procedures to employees. What has been done so far?
Thelma: Our HR department communicates with all employees via email, but we also get updates on Microsoft Teams from our Director of Facilities, which is my department.
One recent communication we received on May 4th was about our return to work, which described which entrances and stairwells we were allowed to use; everyone entering and exiting the building needs to remain on separate sides of the building.
We were also informed of where specific COVID-19 stations will be located with hand sanitizer and face masks, and where we’ll need to go for self-scanning temperature checks.
Finally, we were reminded to respect social distancing rules throughout the building. Only two people will be allowed in restrooms and elevators at all times.
So company-wide guidelines have been communicated on best practices for preventing the spread of a virus?
Thelma: Yes, our HR team sends out daily guidelines or advice to help us navigate this crisis in the workplace. These include recommendations that align with the CDC, related to traveling, social distancing, and more.
How do you feel about returning to the office?
Thelma: I will never say that I have a problem going into the office. I do go so stir crazy at home, so I’m really looking forward to getting back in there.
My fellow employees in similar roles are being cautious, but are also excited and ready to get back to work. There will be changes, we know, but we are all people-oriented individuals and are just ready to get back to business.
We joke that doing our tasks from home has felt like Groundhog Day.
As your office reopens to more employees, how do you expect to handle visitors moving forward?
Thelma: They’re staggering people as employees make a return to the office - they’ll be coming back but will need to be spaced apart. And at first, those who come back will really be those who are essential to the premises. Visitors will also only be essential.
We’ll limit visitors overall, and Proxyclick kiosks will stay at a distance from the front desk. We’ll also encourage virtual meetings via remote working - even shareholder meetings will likely be online.
In general, though, HR has been meeting on new visitor guidelines everyday to determine the next steps after that. And before new employees come on board, they’ll have to go through a vetting process to help us determine potential health risks.
As a receptionist, are you concerned about being on the frontlines of the office during a pandemic, now and in the future?
Thelma: I am concerned about being on the frontlines, which is why I am home now during the worst of it. At first, it was voluntary to work remotely. I ended up being one of the last ones to go home, as I realized how serious things were, so that I didn’t infect myself and my family.
Going forward, we’ll be wearing masks for awhile, and visitors like mailmen or delivery people will need to drop things off outside our front doors. We won’t need to sign for any package, and people won’t be able to directly come up to the desk for some time.
How do you see your role potentially changing due to this crisis?
Thelma: As a receptionist, I hope that things go back to normal - but to a new normal. I expect things to fall back into place, but we’ll enforce things like social distancing, and keep the front desk kiosk at a distance for a while to help keep staff safe.
People will certainly be cleaner, too. I think people will be more conscious of touching surfaces and spreading germs. And they’ll need to be more aware of how they might be infecting others - for example, if you have a sick kid, you shouldn’t bring him into work if he can’t go to school.
In general, I’m hoping that when we do back, we can just pick up where we left up, but I’m sure things will be different in the workplace.
So you feel you can confidently go back to work, as long as you’re fully equipped with supportive staff and technologies to help you manage health crises?
Thelma: I’m quite confident about this, yes. I mean, right now we’re all playing it by ear. We all have to listen and learn and pray that things do get better.
But overall, we’re taking all the necessary precautions at my company. I feel comfortable with going back to work, and about the measures the company has put in place to keep us safe.
At Proxyclick, our team is ready to learn more about your specific needs as businesses reopen their offices. To learn more about how you can strengthen safety measures at your front desk, contact us directly.