Telecommuting, zoom parties, virtual social drinking sessions, and anxious trips to the grocery have become the norm for the past few months. According to data compiled by Slack, about 16 million knowledge workers in the U.S. have transitioned to remote work to weather the pandemic.
While there’s definitely a lot of uncertainty right now, it would be a mistake to presume that demand for office spaces will just continually drop even after COVID-19 blows over. It can be speculated that the new norm will be something resembling the old one but with a greater emphasis on health and safety.
Emphasis on personal space
Whether it’s an office or coworking space in Orlando, New York, or elsewhere, it’s highly likely that the workplace will continue practicing social distancing, albeit a more tamed version. This is especially relevant to open office plans. How would this manifest?
We could see more widely spaced seating arrangements. Long desks that were normally shared pre-pandemic could be limited to a few numbers of people at any given time. This will, of course, impact how many people will be allowed to go to work since offices can’t afford to congest the entire space.
Cleanliness is next to godliness and being COVID free
Aside from continuing to place some distance between workers, overall cleanliness and sanitation procedures are likely to dominate the priorities of workplaces everywhere.
To that end, the budget for maintenance work and equipment would need to increase. Cleaning schedules would also need to adjust and more frequent rounds would need to be done.
Having a robust cleaning and maintenance regime in the workplace could also be seen as a way to boost the government’s confidence in letting some companies get back in business.
Replicating some remote work conditions
Some professionals have probably experienced less interruption while working at home, which is a relief that you don’t often get when you’re in the office. For those who are living with their families or other flatmates, this might not be the case.
However, office managers might be taking note of the increased quiet time at home for some workers. There’s an opportunity to replicate this and find ways to apply it in the office setting to increase productivity.
We could see a number of strategies centered around this goal, from better acoustics and soundproofing to firmer guidelines on minimizing interruptions.
More awareness of employee wellness
The pandemic has brought the issue of health center stage and this will likely boost the already rising awareness of employee wellness.
From physical and mental health support, we could see offices coming up with more programs that allow employees to prioritize their well-being. This would be a welcome development since many workers may have sufferied from stress throughout the course of this viral outbreak.
In addition to this personal focus, managers might start investing more on ways to properly ventilate and purify the air – with the goal of reducing the likelihood of transmitting diseases.
In conclusion: the workplace will continue to evolve
Throughout the decades, workplace designs have continuously shifted according to new behaviors and trends. COVID-19 will no doubt contribute to these shifts. Going back to the office might be impossible now but eventually, we will get there. And when we do, workers and professionals all over the world will carry on and adapt to necessary changes.