The coronavirus pandemic resulted in a massive shift in the way that work was completed, from the office to the home. After months of working from home offices, which can range from a professional setup to a kitchen table, many workers will soon be returning to their places of work if they haven’t already. Significant changes can be expected as normal office life will not be the same as it used to be for some time. While some workplace changes might impact workflow, they can also help to set up the new future of office working.
A new method of working with coworkers
As workers around the world start to head back to the office after months at home, there might be many changes that have been implemented. Some of the ways that Covid-19 could change office design include workstation changes, one-way systems, and less open-plan spaces. The key phrase throughout the pandemic, which will be carried forward into the future of office working, is ‘social distancing’. To ensure that distancing is correctly enacted, expect office layouts to be rearranged, allowing more space for workers. Access to shared areas, such as break and canteen rooms, might be staggered or closed off altogether, to limit the number of people in an area at any one time.
Newly introduced hygiene measures
While good hygiene should always be expected in a workplace, it is now more important than ever that employers provide the correct equipment for cleaning, and that workers use this equipment properly. Masks may be expected where possible to prevent the spread, with plenty of antibacterial hand gel stations also being provided to sterilise hands. Antibacterial wipes and sprays should also be readily available for the cleaning of keyboards, phones, desks and office screens. In addition to employees cleaning for themselves, professional cleaning teams should also be expected to thoroughly clean the office.
The end of hot-desking & shared work spaces
According to data from Southern Office Furniture, co-working has been pretty strong around the world as locations such as the United Kingdom had just under 6000 flexible workspaces in 2019. However, this could all change in the future as offices start to separate colleagues and teams. The principle of hot-desking is that an employee would not have an assigned working desk and computer, but would instead fluidly switch between workstations as necessary. This practice may have been a good productivity booster in the past, but now carries the risk of spreading the virus without proper cleaning precautions and vigilance. It is likely that, for the near future, hot-desking will not be utilised by many companies as workers return, as it is less time-consuming and safer to allow workers a specific set place of work.
Meetings will continue to be held virtually
A possible positive aspect to being forced to work from home for months is that new methods of meeting have been created and refined, which may have been seen as too radical a change without the time to experiment. Video calling technology, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, have seen a surge in popularity in 2020, allowing many people to participate in meetings wherever they are located. The cost of travel expenses will now look less favourable for businesses when the same productivity can be achieved without changing location. Small meeting rooms are also less likely to be in use, as this would not allow for appropriate social distancing, forcing companies to question how essential a physical meeting is. It’s easy to see now how virtual offices might be the offices of the future as the normal reality of the office will not be the same for the rest of this year, and it’s doubtful whether it will return at all. Brainstorms, shared lunches, and breakroom chats are also now a thing of the past as social distancing measures are in place for a while to come.