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Lake Tahoe companies continue working remotely, adapt offices

Claire McArthur
Special to the Tribune
Cowork Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Though some offices around Tahoe may be reopening for employees who’ve been working at home for months, it is certainly not business as usual with masks, new rules and enhanced cleaning protocols.

Cowork Tahoe, a shared office space in South Lake Tahoe, kept its doors open for a handful of members that qualified as essential workers, but starting mid-March, the number of people working from their Harrison Avenue building dropped from 150 to roughly five, said cofounder Jamie Orr.

Prior to both California and Nevada mandating masks in public spaces, Cowork Tahoe required members to wear masks while in common areas, like the lobby and kitchen.

“We do have disposable masks available for people if they forget to bring them,” noted Orr. “We reduced our open desk density by about 50% so we spread them all out so there are no more clusters. There is at least six feet between people if they are sitting down.”

In addition to enhanced cleaning protocols, Cowork Tahoe is no longer offering public meeting space rental or day-passes.

Though the coworking space officially reopened to all members on June 1, Orr said some members plan to continue working from home through the summer while maintaining their membership. However, Orr has seen an uptick in interest from new members.

“We’ve given a number of tours to new members who I think have been working from home a while or they moved to Tahoe within the past few months and they are itching to get out of their homes, but we are not letting them come in on just a day basis,” said Orr.

Across the state line at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Kingsbury Grade office remains closed to the public and a majority of employees are working from home.

“There are some staff working in the office and others are allowed to if they choose. Some jobs just need to take place there, like answering phones and working with large plans and maps. There is no rush for anyone to return so we are using this time to plan guidelines for staff to return. We aren’t looking at any dates to return,” explained Jeff Cowen, TRPA public information officer.

The TRPA has predominantly taken its operations online.

Governing board meetings and public hearing are streamed online, and stamping and signing of plans and permits is done electronically.

The TRPA has asked for people not to be on site for field work and inspections, and in some cases emailed photos suffice. Boat inspections, excluding during the holiday week July 1-5, will be by appointment only.

“We want to keep working full scale with the office closed as much as possible for as long as possible,” added Cowen.

For some major companies across the U.S., this unplanned work-from-home experiment has led to major changes in policy.

In May, Facebook announced that they expect half of the company’s 48,000 employees to work remotely in the next five to 10 years.

Other tech giants like Twitter and Square informed employees that they can work from home indefinitely. And after several months with 98% of its workforce at home, Nationwide Insurance said it plans to permanently transition to a hybrid operating model with just four main corporate campuses, leaving other offices for good by Nov. 1 and continuing work-from-home for those employees.

Regionally, Northern Nevada-based Renown Health announced at the beginning of June that 10% of its workforce — roughly 700 employees — will now permanently work from home. Barton Health, which has healthcare facilities serving Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley, has not indicated any permanent work-from-home policies, but does have 200 employees operating remotely as long as the virus remains a threat.

But the permanent work-from-home model isn’t for everyone.

For Chris McNamara, founder of South Lake Tahoe-based OutdoorGearLab and TechGearLab, a pair of review websites, there is something lost when all meetings are hosted over Zoom.

“We definitely miss the collaborative environment that comes with working together in the office,” explained McNamara, whose Ski Run Boulevard office normally houses 13 employees.

“We will continue to work from home until it’s safe, and we’ve made it work, but we don’t have plans to get rid of our physical office or operate remotely. It will be exciting to get back to the office.”


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