Workplaces look very different because of COVID – offices are empty and home desks have become the norm. But workplaces are unlikely to look like they were pre-COVID – things have changed for good and we’re going to have to get used to it.
From a greater distance between workers to care credits becoming a new target, these are the changes you can expect in the workplace post-COVID.
There’s a much greater distance between workers now
I think it goes without saying, but social distancing is going to continue in the workplace post-COVID. This means there won’t be tightly packed booths – people will have to work at a distance.
The reason for this is that, until we have a vaccine or cure, we simply can’t take the risk – a second spike would be catastrophic and enforce another, potentially longer, lockdown.
So, offices will look a lot emptier, sound a lot quieter, and feel a lot more sedate.
Monitoring everyone who enters the workplace
Don’t expect to enjoy the same freedoms of movement that you did before – you’re all going to be monitored pretty intensely. That includes client meetings, new hires, employees, management – literally everyone.
How this will look is an interesting one to ponder. This is because there are two different types of COVID test and there aren’t enough of either to go around.
My prediction is that workplaces will ask people to complete PCR tests. I believe that existing employees will need to do this on a regular basis, while outsiders will need to provide a positive test result prior to entering the premises.
Team management is now much more focused on health
COVID lockdown has forced people to be more insular, particularly those who live on their own and have to work from home. This has increased the risk of mental health issues and raised the prospect of a decline in physical health.
Workers are the biggest asset and workplaces will make adjustments to protect them. Steps are already being taken to help look after workers – there are now health-focused resources available, group check-ins, and one-to-ones, something that happened rarely (if at all) prior to COVID.
But I don’t think the proactivity of employers will stop there. One of the big success stories of COVID is the use of technology to help make life as comfortable as possible. I see this being extended, with mindful apps like Headspace and physical health apps like Fitbit Coach being offered to employees.
Home offices are the new normal for the majority of workers
Many people are already working from home and I discussed the issues of working in an office earlier in this article. Their associated problems mean that much work will continue to be kept away from it. The result is that home workplaces are going to become the new (continued) normal.
One of the big pre-lockdown fears was being able to move the office into the home. But the reality is that achieving the ideal WFHM workstation isn’t as hard as we thought. This is because many workers have or can easily get the equipment and tools they need, such as laptops for working, chairs for comfort, a secure network for communications, and Wi-Fi for everything.
However, it’s not simply a case of getting the right equipment – working is about creating a positive environment for people. This means those mental and physical health suggestions I made earlier are only going to become more important.
Caring becomes a very valuable currency for businesses
You might have spotted that caring is a theme of COVID – from the 8pm rounds of applause for carers to big brands sending out food carriers, it’s never been more important to show people that you have a heart.
I’m making a big prediction here by saying that the post-COVID workplace will have a new target jostling for position with economic output – care credits.
Care credits are going to make the workplace look quite different, both internally and externally. Let’s take the example of maternity pay, which many countries still do not offer. I’m expecting employers to show they care by offering this, for fear of appearing not to care about people’s lives.
I won’t bog you down in more examples (because there are so many you could use) but the main point is that workplaces will see a greater balance between sales targets and care equivalents.
Every workplace will look different in the post-COVID world – they have to. Exactly how that looks will depend on the individual business, but one thing that we know is that any missteps will risk a PR backlash that looks a lot like the ones that some renowned brands have recently suffered.