COVID-19 has created a tremendous change in the way offices and businesses operate. Earlier this year, the pandemic forced the lockdown of nations around the world. Businesses have closed their doors, resulting in a new trend of home-based employees that continue to keep businesses running.
As states and cities slowly attempt to reopen, it is no surprise that many are still adjusting to the new way of life amidst a still-upending global pandemic. Facebook and Twitter have both announced that they will be transitioning into a work-from-home (WFH) workforce for a majority of their employees. Many other corporations are also looking at continuing this WFH trend, with only key personnel reporting to offices on a weekly basis.
Here are 10 ways COVID-19 has and continues to change the office and workplace for many:
1. Social distancing in the office
Say goodbye to open workspaces and water cooler gossip. With recommendations of 6-feet social distancing from the CDC, offices that choose to have employees onsite will have to seat them far enough apart to help prevent the spread of the virus. Another option is enclosed office spaces. Expect smaller office desks spaced further apart or large empty desk spaces between workers. Safer and separate entries must also be managed efficiently for everyone coming in and out.
Customers or clients visiting the office will need to be managed in the same way. For many businesses, visiting customers will need to be staggered to prevent an overcrowded waiting room. There will also need to be ample space to ensure visitors can continue to practice social distancing within the office.
2. Rotating workdays
Many businesses have begun staggering work schedules for employees who are required to come into the office. Employees would only be required to come into the office on specific days and times, while others continue to work from home. This could boil down to one to two days a week with only a few hours in the office on any given day. How these rotating schedules are implemented would depend heavily on the size and amount of available office space to accommodate onsite workers.
3. Virtual meetings and remote employees
With many cities still on lockdown, many businesses have already transitioned to a WFH workforce. This workforce relies greatly on its remote employees attending virtual or online meetings to enhance collaboration and facilitate meetings and discussions. Even with the reopening of businesses, this trend of virtual meetings is expected to continue.
Many businesses like Facebook have decided to continue their WFH policies. This means fewer onsite workers at any given time and continued virtual meetings are needed to ensure productivity and enhance collaboration. Time to get used to Zoom meetings and Slack messages!
4. Smaller office sizes and fewer conference rooms
Businesses are looking at downsizing. With the reduction of onsite employees and workers, many will not require the large office spaces they currently have from before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. If rotating schedules and staggering onsite employees are managed well, businesses can now reduce the required office space. This greatly reduces overhead expenses and rental costs.
Also, with many remote employees participating in virtual meetings, there will not be a need for large or multiple conference rooms. While businesses are looking at converting these conference rooms into individual offices to allow for social distancing, many are willing to forgo these conference rooms altogether.
5. Collaboration through technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a majority of businesses and employees to work from home or operate remotely. In recent months, technology companies have seen a huge spike in the need for online services that facilitate collaboration. These services enhance productivity and can be useful when operating from different locations.
COVID-19 has created a great reliance on collaboration through technology and will not end anytime soon. Companies like Slack and Airtable are increasingly working at providing their services to businesses around the globe. Even with the reopening of businesses, employees will continue to utilize technology to collaborate in efforts to sustain and support businesses.
6. Emphasis on sanitation
Employees expecting to come into the office must wear masks and use hand sanitizers throughout the space. Office desks, cubicles, and common work areas will need to be wiped down and sanitized more often. Public restrooms will need cleaning throughout the day to prevent the spread of the virus. Employees will be required to wash their hands often. Sanitation will become the number one priority for offices.
7. Flexible work schedules
More businesses are providing flexible work schedules along with remote work teams and rotating schedules. These schedules accommodate parents who are still required to homeschool their children. Flexible work schedules also provide rest and breaks for remote employees who are required to juggle home, kids, work, and other daily necessities.
8. Mental health support
Assuming that working from home or dealing with this crisis is easy for everyone is a big mistake. Many struggle to cope with their family needs and work from home. Others are stressed about the COVID-19 pandemic and fear for their loved ones.
“Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, the country is on the verge of another health crisis, with daily doses of death, isolation and fear generating widespread psychological trauma.” -Washington Post
Businesses have started to introduce mental health support for their employees, and many others are following suit. The mental health of employees is crucial to the success of any business. As we tread carefully in the reopening of businesses, employees need increasing support to ensure they manage and cope well through the pandemic.
9. Contactless technology
Contactless technology helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Also, it helps with social distancing within the office. Traditional payment systems are being replaced with phone-based payment gateways. No-touch parking solutions are springing up around parking garages. Digital wallets are now a trend. Coca-Cola recently released new software for pouring beverages contactless during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contactless technology is being improved and enhanced each day and will soon be implemented in many offices.
10. Scalable, more flexible systems and processes
With everything in the office going digital, businesses are looking at new, innovative solutions to support the office and their remote employees. We are seeing the implementation of more flexible systems for offices that can be adapted and used to enhance collaboration and communications efforts. VoIP phone systems are replacing regular phone lines. These allow remote employees to access incoming calls from anywhere and do not add to already high overhead costs. Others are looking at more effective ways of routing calls or monitoring a WFH workforce. The demand for scalable and flexible systems is in high demand.
Therefore, no one can predict when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. As businesses continue to gear up to support this transition, employees, as well, are also preparing for a long-term overhaul of the way offices are managed. The need for change is inevitable, and preparing your business well in advance can help ease everyone into this new way of working more efficiently.