With a vaccine imminent for the general population, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But the question on the minds of many is: what might a post-pandemic workplace look like?
After months of working from home, the return to the office will undoubtedly look quite different from what workers remember.
Adapting to a Post-pandemic World
For one, health and well-being will be top priorities for workplaces. This means the physical layout for offices will adapt to a post-pandemic world, providing more personal desk space, designated breakout rooms for collaborative projects, and offering outdoor areas for work, a break, or socializing.
Workers returning to the office may also not be returning the same office address.
Smaller Satellite Locations
Companies are considering breaking their central offices into smaller satellite locations situated in the suburbs. This allows for more social-distancing and less-expensive rental space. In these new spaces, touchless technology will undoubtedly become standard in office design.
Quality air filtration, upgraded cleaning protocols, and fever-testing thermal cameras will also become the norm for many post-pandemic offices.
The Perks of Working From Home
While some workers are eager to return to the office, others aren’t ready to give up the perks they enjoyed while working from home. Telecommuting allows workers far more freedom and flexibility in scheduling their day.
According to research from the American Psychological Association (APA), working from home can improve worker productivity and performance, boost job satisfaction, and reduce stress.
Many workers seem to agree with the APA as a recent Gallup poll reports nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees currently working remotely due to the pandemic would like to continue doing so, working from the comfort of their homes.
A Better Work-life Balance
For many, the shift to remote work has allowed for a better work-life balance and has influenced major life decisions surrounding their living situations. With the flexibility of telecommuting, families are escaping the city centers and opting to buy second homes or vacation homes in more remote areas and at resorts, hoping to avoid the coronavirus.
Others are heading to suburbs for more room and are investing in renovations to create a comfortable home office space.
Residential real estate such as multifamily apartment buildings are also adapting to the new shift to remote work, implementing coworking spaces and more family-friendly amenities like playrooms.
The Role of the Office is Changing
However, this doesn’t mean the quintessential office workspace will disappear. Rather, the role of the office is changing. Even when work can be successfully completed from home, spontaneous coworker interactions, collaborative work, brainstorming sessions, onboarding and training, company culture and a sense of camaraderie are all difficult to replicate outside an office setting.
And for workers who may not own or have access to the right technologies to complete their work, the office is their lifeline.
A Hybrid Model
So while companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft have already offered permanent remote work options for employees, most companies are looking into an office-remote work hybrid. In theory, a hybrid option would give workers the best of both worlds.
Workers could come to the office on designated days during the week for collaborative projects, to build company culture, socialize with coworkers, or for even a respite from the family or isolation at home.
With a hybrid model or for those who choose to be all-remote, the challenge will be to set up new expectations and guidelines.
For instance, will there be set working hours and set times to be available for communications?How will companies measure employee performance? Will those working remotely feel overlooked for promotions and other compensation compared to those who physically work at the office?
Will workers have a designated desk when they return to the office on their non-remote days?
Many questions arise as we move into a new post-pandemic workplace.
Reinventing the Model
Fortunately, we have the unique opportunity to reinvent the model of what it means to go to work and can create a system that focuses on worker well-being plus improves job satisfaction and performance.