The coronavirus lockdown has changed how we work, but how will it alter the way offices look when they re-open?
With the expectation that offices across the country may be able to open sometime soon following the covid-19 lockdown, many people are wondering what their working environment will look like. Will it be the same as when lockdown started or are they going to return to a totally different office?
While we can’t know for certain exactly what measures all businesses are taking to make their offices safer places for employees, there are some changes that many workplaces are likely to make. These aren’t just related to the physical design of an office either, as lockdown has revealed a lot about what is most important to workers, which is likely to impact policies and working styles.
To give you some insight into what you may find once your office opens its doors again, we’ve taken a look at the changes that could be brought into effect.
Just as in any other workplaces, offices are going to need to ensure measures are in place to maintain social distancing. This means that desk layouts are likely to be changed in order to ensure extra space between employees and could mean that all new office furniture being brought in.
With two metres between people being a requirement, banks of desks may become rows of individual desks. There is a strong chance that desk dividers will be in place to provide an added layer of separation. You may also find that a one-way system is implemented throughout the office to help deal with distancing in tighter spaces.
In these instances, organisations and teams need to ensure that they are still able to work collaboratively. You may not be able to gather at someone’s desk to discuss a project, but you can still work together on it. You’ll also find that meetings will need to be distanced, so it is the perfect opportunity to get creative in order to ensure every person feels supported and each team can still work together.
It is highly probable that companies will need to adapt to a more agile way of working, which could mean offices being closed on certain days of the week, some teams working from home part of the workweek or even people becoming permanent remote workers.
When you factor in the number of people who have found they enjoy working from home, those who will still have childcare considerations to deal with when offices re-open and smaller offices that may not be able to implement social distancing if all workers return, flexible working is a good option.
On top of this, the start of lockdown meant that many businesses had to make investments in technology and software to ensure they could operate with teams working remotely. With everything now in place, it would make flexible working a good financial decision, as well as one that looks after the physical and mental wellbeing of staff.
It is highly likely that not all of the office workers you are used to seeing day in and day out will return at the same time. You may also find that flexible working becomes a standard way of operating within your business, which could further change your office down the line.
Investment in technology
The right technology has been shown to be more important to businesses than ever before, and continued investment may be needed by some organisations. With people needing to work remotely, meetings with clients or agencies having to happen in socially-distanced ways, technology is going to become more important than ever before.
All office environments, including those that are more traditional, will need to become increasingly digital. This means improved computers, new processes and more tech support. While it may seem like more investment isn’t ideal when businesses are getting back on their feet, it will help to support the new agile way of working.
Bigger focus on cleaning
As you’d probably expect, there is bound to be a bigger focus on cleaning in all office environments. Cleaning shifts are likely to be more regular, there will be stricter rules for communal areas and desks and companies will probably need to sanitation stations, complete with hand gel and products suitable for cleaning desks and computers.
You may no longer be able to get away with keeping a stash of mugs on your desk or just dumping your plate in the office kitchen sink - although you shouldn’t be doing these things anyway. Stricter measures will help ensure offices stay clean and as safe as possible.
One of the big things that lockdown has taught companies is how important looking after employee’s wellbeing is, including both mental and physical health. While employee wellbeing has been more of a focus for many companies over the last few years especially, lockdown is likely to make it more important than ever before.
Offices need to ensure they are doing all they can to boost wellbeing, whether it is from a distance for remote workers or physically in the office environment. This will be a big challenge when you factor in social distancing, so organisations will need to get creative.
Team building exercises, new benefits, regular catch-ups and other steps need to be taken to ensure all staff are being taken care of. It may also be the case that companies adopt more mental health policies, such as paid mental health days, in order to support their teams going forward.
All of these changes are likely to take some getting used to but the challenges they bring could ultimately lead to better working practices and a happier workforce.