The Covid-19 pandemic has set the world reeling. Many sides of life have been changed forever, including our workplaces. With the advent of the viral infection, many businesses chose to send employees home to work remotely. This was an abrupt change to what used to be a normal workday in the office.
Now, many businesses and their employees have become used to working from home. But with lockdowns slowly rolling back, it’s time to consider what will need to happen in the workplace.
What will our workplaces post-Covid-19 be like? That’s a great question, one that many companies are now looking to solve.
Adapting to the New World Post-Covid-19
As the pandemic has been a health crisis felt the world over, companies are now faced with the realities of how the workplace will need to adapt.
1). Healthy workplace: as the virus is still infecting people, businesses will have to consider how to social distance to keep employees safe and healthy. What will this mean?
There’s already been a movement to increase the amount of square footage for each employee. This had started before the pandemic. Most likely an increase in the amount of space per employee will need to include enough distance to meet local post-lockdown requirements. These requirements will continue for some time, at least as long as Covid-19 remains active.
Open offices are predicted to remain popular, as well as breakout areas where employees can gather for meetings and quiet time.
In addition, the workplace environment will become even more important. Elements that have been a priority in the past will take on new importance. These include such elements as bringing in more natural lighting, improve indoor air quality, better temperature regulation, and even the use of contactless tech to keep people healthy at work.
2). Support of mental health: another area sometimes overlooked pre-Covid-19 was support of employee mental health. However, during the pandemic, working from home has been extremely difficult for some people, especially those who thrive on connections and their teams.
In addition, lockdowns have forced individuals to avoid the company of others, leaving a void in many of our lives. Working from home has also been challenging in that balance between work and personal lives has become hazy. Without the normal boundary between work and home life, many people have become stressed even more.
As a result, workplaces will need to take on mental health issues as employees return to the workplace. The post lockdown work environment will need to focus on supporting employees with access to mental health therapists (virtually or onsite), quite zones, collaboration areas and more. Businesses will need to take on an integrated approach to ensure employees are supported in the new workplace post-Covid-19.
3). Communication and connectivity: as the viral infection continues and lockdowns ease, the emphasis on communication and connectivity will continue. During the pandemic, we have all remained in contact via technology. At times this has been difficult, depending on the availability of infrastructure, traffic on networks and more. Going forward, it will be necessary for companies to improve their networks and IT infrastructure to maintain connectivity and communications, which lead to improved productivity.
Toward this effort, training on the use of various communication tools such as video conferencing, chat apps, along with other forms of communication, will become necessary. Many companies were caught unprepared when the pandemic hit. Now they see the need to improve communication skills.
This is especially true as some employees will continue to work from home either permanently, or on flexible schedules. Modern tech and stable, high-speed networks will become more important than ever before. Our reliance on these means of staying in touch will continue in the world after Covid-19.
4). Social Interactions & community: one thing that has become very apparent to everyone is that community and social interactions are important for our wellbeing. As everyone starts to return to the office, businesses will see a growing request for collaboration and socialization from employees.
Again, breakout areas, spaces for collaborative efforts, and more will be needed to help employee reestablish connections lost during the pandemic. Not only will socialization increase wellbeing, these efforts will also work to increase team relationships.
5). Remote work & flexible schedules: many employees have become convinced that working from homes a been a great improvement in their lives. Businesses will need to find a way to accommodate these employees, if they wish to keep employee turnover low, maintain top talent and attract new candidates. Possible solutions could be allowing some employees to permanently work from home, while others could be offered flexible schedules, so they can work from both the office and remotely.
Not only will this benefit employee satisfaction, it can also be cost-effective for businesses. For instance, a move to larger premises could be avoided if some employees work from home. Fewer employees in the workplace also means it’s easier to increase the distance between workstations and more. Companies could even see some savings in their utility bills with fewer people in the workplace.
6). Disinfection of the workplace: this is another area that was overlooked pre-Covid-19. Areas such as eating facilities, kitchens, and restrooms were all cleaned and disinfected. However, other areas were neglected. Who thought of disinfecting elevator buttons, door handles and other spots? Of course some businesses did, but now all organizations will need to revisit disinfection of the workplace.
These efforts may include the addition of anti-microbial filters in heating and cooling systems. All contact areas for employees—from where they enter the building until they reach their workstation must also be considered. This means door handles, buttons on elevator panels, and more. It may also mean the installation of barriers between employee desks, continuous ventilation, and even sanitation of ductwork. Everything will need to be considered, and then a plan created in order to address necessary post-Covid disinfection of the workplace.
Our work environments need to be reassessed and steps taken to ensure the health of all returning employees. This includes physical and mental wellbeing, as well as reestablishment of community connections as we all return to work after Covid-19 runs its course.