Public Notice: Home for the Holidays

The Chronicle office: we're (almost) back!

Next week's <i>Chronicle</i> cover
Next week's Chronicle cover (Doodle by Kevin Curtin)

As I sit down to write this column, Music Editor Kevin Curtin has just buttonholed Art Director Zeke Barbaro in the hallway outside my office.

"Hey, here's what I'm thinking of for next week's cover. I don't know if I have the right number of stick figures in there, but the main ones could go here, and it'd say ..." And a two-minute conversation ensues, at the end of which, Zeke swears he knows what it'll look like, and says he'll get the ­photos assigned.

And that's why we're prepping for a return to work in the office in a couple of weeks, after working almost exclusively from home for the past 20 months. (We were one of the earlier businesses to shut down back in March 2020, after a staffer became one of the first three people hospitalized in the Travis County area.)

It won't be easy; we had a two-hour meeting yesterday to go over the details. The policy is going to be that everyone entering the building must be vaccinated, and for now must wear a mask in any common area; but of course, nothing's as simple as it seems. What about negative COVID tests, or high antibody counts? Religious or medical exceptions? Masks in shared offices? Shared lunches on production days, which has been a Chronicle tradition for 40 years? Everyone's level of comfort – and of risk – is different, and on some things, we're just going to have to feel out how things develop, while following changing health guidelines along the way.

And it won't be the same as it was before. While we've missed a lot of the synergies of working as a team, discussing things in person, and getting to look at layouts in their actual printed form, people have found a lot of value in working remotely as well. So most will continue working from home for two days a week – that seems like the best balance of "getting more work done when I'm not at the office" and "not being able to find people when I need to talk to them" – and the office will likely be open to the public only Tuesday to Thursday. Meet­ings will be a mix of in-person and virtual (but hopefully not hybrids of both at once). And we'll continue to use a lot of the web-based processes we've developed over the last year and a half, and we'll see.

I bring it up because it may shed some light on how these decisions are made, and it may sound familiar; this is a dance a lot of people and places are going through, as we seem to be groping our way toward whatever the new normal is. See you there.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro at austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

COVID-19, remote work, proof of vaccination

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