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(STG Design)

Austin firm STG Design developed a virtual tour of its workplace so employees can familiarize themselves with changes before returning to the office.

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Consider the elevator. Commercial ones are typically between five and eight feet square, according to the Elevator Lab, meaning only one person can be inside while also observing social distancing guidelines. In a busy office building, with rush hour elevator traffic at the start and end of the workday, this poses a challenge. During a pandemic, it gets worse.


"Man, this one's been really tough," said Tim Hendricks, senior vice president of Cousins Properties' Austin office, during a webinar hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce last week.

Elevator protocol is just one of the many questions facing businesses as they decide whether to reopen their offices at limited capacity, now that the governor has given the green light to do so. Other concerns include temperature checks, one-way foot traffic, liability and masking requirements.


(STG Design)


Cousins, a real estate firm, surveyed its Austin tenants—some 185 businesses with offices in the central business district and at the Domain—about their reopening plans and heard a wide range of responses. "We do think that the majority of our customers will be phasing in in some kind of staggered process," Hendricks said during the webinar.

This is the case for STG Design, a commercial architecture and interior design firm. Its Austin office is home to 80 employees and will begin a phased reopening June 1, associate principal Paul LaBrant said.

Initially, employees will return to the office at a scheduled time to clean their desk and clear out any personal items. In mid-June, employees will be able to return based on their assignments. "It is very much on a voluntary basis," LaBrant said.

In preparation, STG is marking the floor with arrows to help staff adjust to one-direction foot traffic, setting up sanitation stations and blocking off certain desks to allow for social distancing. The company will also offer employees virtual walkthroughs of the updated office. "So they're not having to figure it out once they get there," LaBrant said.

As STG prepares for its own reopening, its staff is also considering how this pandemic will change office design—and is working with its clients to help them make the shift. "The workplace of today is not going to work for the workplace of the immediate tomorrow," LaBrant said.

He foresees offices becoming more limited in both size and scope—offering a hub for innovation and meetings—as teleworking becomes more routine. Part of this change, he said, is because employees with children will likely be unable to come into the office for many months as schools and camps continue to adjust their operations. But it is also the result of new priorities.


(STG Design)


"The American work culture has always been work first, family second," LaBrant said. "Now I think we are forced into seeing that our lives matter as much as the work that we do, and there's going to be a balance there."

While STG will begin its reopening next month, some of its local clients are planning to stay home through November—"just because they want to see how other companies do this, and they're still seeing productivity … while their teams are working from home," LaBrant said.

For those companies that do reopen in the coming days and weeks, communication will be paramount.

"The best defense for liability for your business or your company is going to be a well-crafted, comprehensive return-to-office plan that is vigorously followed at your place of business," said Pamela Madere, a real estate attorney at Jackson Walker's Austin office, during the same webinar.

Such a plan—if developed in accordance with CDC guidelines—will help employees know what to do and protect employers from lawsuits. It may also come in handy if COVID-19 cases spike.

"We really want to be ready for a future outbreak," Madere said. "We know it's coming at some point."

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The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.


Ingredients:

  • 750 ml Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 16 oz strawberries

Directions: Drop sliced strawberries into glass container filled with Tito's Handmade Vodka. Let sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Once desired flavor is reached remove fruit. Enjoy!

Years before the city of Austin went Verde, thousands of the city's soccer fans formed a supporters' group—MLS in Austin—for a team that didn't even exist yet.

Now, as the team's catchphrase suggests, those same fans are #LISTOS as they prepare to see their team on national television at Austin FC's debut on Saturday.

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