Work after COVID-19: A New Office Normal
October 19, 2020 by Alexis Babiarz
Six months into a global pandemic, much is still unknown about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus that causes it. There is a clear, scientifically demonstrated link between regular, frequent hand washing, mask-wearing and lower rates of infection, yet many schools will stay closed this fall, some businesses will remain shuttered (or their hours will remain shortened), and life, in general, seems to show few signs of returning to pre-virus normalcy.
Millions of Americans who are able to perform their jobs from home are still doing so, and they will likely continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. But there is a worker-led push afoot to get people back into offices. In all likelihood, a return is coming, though when that will happen is anybody’s guess. One thing is for certain, though. The offices to which people go each weekday morning won’t be exactly the ones they left behind in March.
To reopen, contemporary organizations will need to undergo some very fundamental alterations. In the following sections, we detail the top five changes coming soon to companies everywhere.
More remote work. A lot more.
Lots of folks are eager to get back to their routines of morning Starbucks stop and high-rise office buildings, but many are just as eager to stay away and continue working just the same. Whatever your preference, the future of knowledge work is going to include a significant amount of remote work, a good deal more than we saw prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
That needn’t mean staying at home, though. Instead, consider a flexible coworking space. At Metro Offices, we have nine spots from which to choose in and around the nation’s capital, and all are either within a quick walk’s distance of a Metro or bus station. Metro Offices has been taking social distancing and sanitization to heart since day one (read about our enhanced health-safety measures here). We have amenities on amenities. And membership with us saves a bundle over traditional office leases.
Many offices that have reopened have wisely moved desks and chairs farther apart, in order to adhere to CDC-suggested social-distancing guidelines. You’re likely to see signage showing the 6-foot mark between seats and on floors in front of common areas. Plexiglass barriers are being erected not only in front of reception desks and areas, but also between seats in common work areas and cubicles.
A focus on hygiene and disease prevention
Offices and other businesses have also been boosting their focus on hygiene. Many that already offered hand-sanitizing gels or foams have installed more such stations, and others that did not previously offer the stations have started to do so, with dispensers placed throughout floors and buildings.
Expect, too, to see ‘touchless’ door-opening devices, such as foot-operated handles.
On the more costly side, some office buildings are installing “self-cleaning” and antimicrobial films on frequently touched common surfaces such as elevator buttons.
Rotating ‘office days’
Just as some school districts have been considering a rotating schedule to allow different groups of students through the doors on different school days, some companies have begun offering their employees a rotating in-office work schedule. “A staggered workforce may become standard, with smaller groups coming in on alternate days and shifts that avoid transport rush-hour peaks,” Jessica Mudditt writes in a recent BBC Worklife piece.
New office designs
The above changes are all relatively inexpensive and quick to install, but the coronavirus will fundamentally alter the way offices of the future are designed and built. ‘Sneezeguards’ will be built in rather than retro-fitted and building materials will tend toward the less-porous, such as laminate and stone. We will probably re-welcome the cubicle.
Finally, in the good news department, we will likely be bidding adieu to the widely despised “open” office plan.
Why drop a bundle on a traditional office lease? Go flexible (and social-distance compliant) with Metro Offices. Click here to compare what it costs to run your own office with simply letting us do the work for you.
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