The Post Covid-19 Workplace (pt.1)
REDUCING THE SPREAD OF GERMS IN OPEN WORKSPACES
All of our workplaces are facing change amidst the rapid spread of COVID-19 and concern about exposure is spreading just as rapidly. For those that have the ability to work remotely, being out of the office and staying home is clearly one of the best ways to help diminish the risk to yourself and others. For everyone else that must be in the office, the CDC has issued guidelines for safe workplaces, and amongst the directions for hand washing, disinfecting and encouraging people to stay home if they or a family member are sick, are recommendations for separating people as much as possible. When separation isn’t possible, as in a group meeting, they recommend distancing between individuals and a well-ventilated space (i.e. opening windows where possible).
So what about those places of work? While open spaces in work settings have been the trend for several years, being in those spaces now most likely leaves people wishing there were more chance for dividing themselves from the people they normally sit shoulder to shoulder with. As the peak and subsequent dwindling of this virus eventually comes, people will be returning to offices in greater numbers, even while the remnants of the virus still linger. This has already begun in parts of China, and while there are still strict guidelines and recommendations for hygiene, sanitizing etc., concerns for health and well-being abound. Other countries will undoubtedly face these same concerns as they, in time, begin their return to work.
CHANGES AHEAD FOR ALL
All of us, regardless of where we live and work, are likely to return to a changed environment. The proverbial mingling at the office water cooler will be gone, at least for awhile. Facilities management and human resources will face questions from employees as to how they are protecting their workforces. Shared desks and other more casual or informal work spaces may quickly become the least desirable settings for work. Separated work spaces, even if only by something like a cubicle wall or room divider, could find increased popularity and are likely to factor into future, post Covid-19 work. Settings that allow for straight-forward cleaning and disinfecting and even materials that offer anti-microbial properties will factor into the discussion in designing or re-configuring offices and other workplaces. We will all be too familiar with how vulnerable we are to germs and contagion despite the medical words best efforts, and sneeze-guards and disinfectant will be seen as only the most basic steps in protecting us in places where we gather. Workplaces will need to respond in substantive ways to not just the concerns but the genuine need for reasonable solutions.
LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
While more employers will have had their eyes opened to the possibilities of working from home, most will of course prefer to have their employees return to offices and other workspaces. The genuine limitations of remote working will have been thoroughly revealed, as will be the potential to remotely manage teams, especially for those who have just been thrown into the deep-end without prior experience operating in this format.
The return to work will see immediate changes the companies can effect upon re-opening their doors. and other long-term answers will be expected in the near future of work.