Reimagining the Workplace Post COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the conventional wisdom was that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Companies competed for premium office space in major urban centers around the world, outdoing one another in style and décor. That’s no longer the priority at the moment (or in the near future). The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working.
But that doesn’t mean future offices are destined to be dystopian, as some may fear. In fact many companies are planning to transition their employees back into the office as remote workers may not be able to solve every organizational problem. Just that, in the ‘new normal’ organizations must reimagine their workplace and need a plan that maintains safety, rebuilds morale while keeping employees’ comfort and well-being in mind.
So, what does a post-Coronavirus office look like when put into real-life practice? Below are some considerations to ensure a successful transition back to work post COVID-19.
- Adopt a hybrid work model
Creating a hybrid work model with a mix of remote and in-office workers gives employees the flexibility to return to the office only if they are comfortable and ready.
In a recent interview with NBC News, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained his company’s intent to embrace hybrid work, saying, “If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”
- Implement a rotational work schedule
Another great way to mitigate COVID-19 risks in your office is to implement a rotational work schedule, as having your entire workforce return to the office on day one is not realistic. For example, companies can start with 25% of workers returning to the office during the first phase. If all goes well, increase to 50% of employees returning to the office a few weeks later, and so on.
Having a smaller workforce return to the office also makes sense as it can help workers follow social distancing regulations and reduce the spread of coronavirus.
- The Six feet office model
A number of global enterprises are coming up the “Six Feet Office” model, designed to help employees safely work in the office space while social distancing. Work stations, they reported, would be six feet apart. Employees may be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The cafeteria will only offer pre-packaged grab-and-go foods. Additionally, companies may need to institute policies to limit the number of people per meeting and outsiders visiting the office unannounced.
- Create a sanitary workplace
All tables, desks, chairs and communal spaces will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected daily. Dr. Jay Varkey is an infectious disease specialist at the Emory University School of Medicine, mentions in his blog, “There should be a hand sanitizer station at the entrance and exit of every elevator. Businesses should also consider establishing hand sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas and by high-touch surfaces like the lobby, break rooms and conference rooms.”
If possible, keep doors propped open to reduce the touching of handles. He also recommends opening windows if possible, installing high-efficiency air filters and adjusting air conditioners to increase air circulation and flow.
- Bring on the safety technologies
Tech firms are coming up with smart solutions to ensure the safety of employees, customers and visitors as well as monitor compliance and mitigate risk. IT major TCS has come up with an AI-powered software — IUX for Workplace Resilience, a business command centre solution that helps enterprises make it safe for employees returning to work and for customers doing business with them.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) on the other hand is leveraging microapp capabilities within Citrix Workspace to enable employees to quickly complete tasks, while ensuring smart social distancing, locating personal protective equipment and sanitation stations and other workplace safety measures.
- The role of CEO and the board
By the time a company is ready to begin planning for a return to the workplace, the top management led by the CEO and the board would have met and discussed these issues for some time. According to PwC’s Pulse Survey, how and when companies bring employees back could have long-lasting implications for the business and corporate culture. By understanding the risks, boards can play an effective role in overseeing management’s plans to return to the workplace.
This is by no means a comprehensive list and one can keep adding perspectives on the new normal workplace. But times are uncertain and whatever happens in the months ahead is still unknown. Even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, it is likely that the experience of living through a pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way we work and on our future workplaces. If nothing else, the focus on health and hygiene will gives a new meaning to the idea of working in a sterile environment.