Remember traveling to the office? Remember gossiping in the work kitchen? Remember avoiding your boss all day because you missed a deadline? Well, as social activities slowly start to move back to normality, so does our work life.
Lockdown conditions came into effect in late March, and many office workers were encouraged to work from home. This came as a welcome change for some – zoom meetings in pyjamas, lunch breaks at 11am, and Netflix on constantly in the background. But as restrictions start to ease, many companies are eager for their staff to return to the office, and in turn need to make several changes to avoid endangering the health and safety of their staff.
There is constant discussion from experts on what measures needs to be taken to provide a safe environment for everyone returning to work. Here, Shane watts from Improb predicts what approaches will work best for offices after lockdown.
‘We’ve seen a positive and sensible response for many countries around the world when people have returned to work – many of them being from countries who have dealt with pandemics in the past, so have developed responses accordingly. Many countries that are ‘new’ to this have already adopted these countries rules with regards to bars, gyms and schools, so it stands to reason that they’ll be following their workplace guidelines too’.
‘For the foreseeable future, the main rule that’s going to stay in place is ‘social distancing’. Governments have already stated that this will be in place until the end of the year, so expect to see office spaces restructured in a way that reduces congestion in certain areas (desks moved away from each other, possible one way systems in the bigger offices), especially those areas in which people spend long durations of time.
The two-metre rule will always remain best practice for fighting the virus but one- metre may be inevitable if 2m is impossible to maintain in certain workspaces. If that is the case, expect to see staggered shift times across offices, as well as possible ‘days in/days home’ shift patterns. I believe many companies are going to be encouraged to structure start times in shift patterns, as opposed to the classic 9 to 5 days of the past. The benefits of this works on many levels; you would be keeping your staff from mixing with too many people in the office, and you would also be relieving the stress placed on public transport during rush hour periods.
I predict that there will also be a shift in lunch break patterns. Many offices share communal kitchens. These kitchens may be out of bounds for the foreseeable future. However, for smaller offices a rota type system can be implemented once colleague uses the kitchen and fully sterilises it after use.
Of course, working from home is no doubt appealing to a lot of people who are uncertain of the protection their workplace can provide. Fortunately, many companies’ bosses have been surprised by the levels of productivity from staff working from home, so expect that to remain in place if it has caused no issues for your company. In fact, with video conferences keeping everyone connected daily, the need for constantly traveling into work has been greatly reduced. I don’t expect this to last forever though, as the novelty of working from home will wear off, plus I think it’s good for your metal well-being to sperate work life from home life.’
‘Once offices do open again, there will be dramatic changes to hot-desking and sharing office equipment. From signing in with a shared pen, to stealing the best chairs for a meeting – things are going to be a lot more school-like. Smaller companies are going to have to invest in a wider range of shared equipment, so on the plus side all you interns who have had to share a laptop might be getting your own. Also, expect all your iPad and keyboards to smell of cleaning products, because everyone will be sterilizing those constantly.
Plastic screens will also be appearing everywhere. Coffee shops, retail, and bars have taken to them well, so offices should realistically install them in places where people sit and work throughout the day, especially if it next to a space where people constantly walk past. Though that does mean bad news for all you people who like to have a little chat while walking past your favourite colleague.’
‘As seen outside and inside many shops, offices will also have increased hygiene procedures in place. Japan and Korea have daily temperature checks for staff, which seems a lot scarier than it sounds. On walking in the building someone will take your temperature with a temperature gun – it is quick, painless, and although not 100% actuate, does provide peace of mind for many people entering work. Something else that has also been broached is ‘health passports.’ Basically, it’s a document that will provide details of if you have or haven’t had Covid-19. There are little details in place, but it should be similar to any other ID that grants you entry to places.’
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