COVID-19 has certainly altered the prevailing status quo for many of us. Over the past six months, the once discrete realms of work and home have been obtrusively blended into a single construct operating under one roof. While the pandemic undoubtedly gives weight and potential longevity to the concept of remote “home offices”, many employers and employees cannot help but wonder what returning to work – in the traditional sense – will look like amid the COVID-19 reopening.
Although the overall return-to-work experience will vary from company to company and even organization to organization, there most likely will be common themes that can be observed across five pronounced areas: commute, physical environment, culture, business operations, and personal accountability.
Prior to COVID-19, careful deliberation often went into the distance, duration, and mode of transportation for home-to-work roundtrip commutes. Amid COVID-19, some will have to reconsider the mode by which they commute and/or the time of day that they commute. Individuals relying on public transportation may be incented by their companies to consider alternative forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others. Employers/supervisors may also explore aligning the work shifts of applicable employees to less busy commuting hours.
Office setup and operations will surely change due to COVID-19. Health screenings (e.g., temperature checks) may become routine criteria for entrance into facilities. There may be restrictions on the number of passengers in elevators. Stairwells and doorways may be reserved for traffic flow going in one direction – up/down or out/in, respectively. Workspaces will be appropriately isolated and partitioned via physical barriers. High-touch equipment (e.g., printers and projectors) and appliances (e.g., microwaves and coffee makers) will likely either be removed or more strictly regulated. Lastly, there will be protocols in place to make sure that surfaces are properly and frequently disinfected.
Companies that thrived off of in-person idea exchanges and group collaboration will have to continue to adjust to engaging in more virtual settings. Large, in-person gatherings and meetings will most likely be eliminated for the foreseeable future. Handshaking, fist bumping, or other close-range contact will be discouraged. Many companies though have already spent the last six months modifying their culture to embrace a completely remote workplace. Moving forward and probably beyond, the focus will be on where best to stop the pendulum in the transition back from virtuality to reality in the quest to lock in on optimal employee productivity.
Capacity restrictions may force many companies to introduce staggered work shifts. So, well-planned coordination within and across teams will be an essential attribute for success. Up-to-date business continuity plans will also be critical, as potential spikes in absenteeism will be very likely due to employees contracting the virus, having to stay home to care for family members, or having to tend to school-age kids. To prepare for this, cross-training of employees may be required to ensure that essential business functions will continue uninterrupted – even in the absence of key personnel.
More than ever before, there will be a strong need for personal accountability among employees. If employees are sick or knowingly exposed, then it will be paramount that those employees notify their supervisors, stay home, and adhere to the appropriate isolation guidelines. The right precautions will prevent further outbreaks at the workplace.
In conclusion, our return to work will indeed be characterized by changes. Subscribing to these preventative, communicative and altruistic measures, however, will hopefully help companies and our country endure the COVID-19 repercussions and maintain a steady path to improved health and economic recovery.
PeopleCaddie operates a rapidly growing contingent labor marketplace for highly-skilled, independent business professionals who enjoy the excitement and flexibility associated with being a part of the gig economy.