The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted daily living—from shifts in one’s daily routine to massive consequences for the world’s economies. It is no surprise that this health crisis has deeply affected the way businesses and industries are operating.
While short-term changes have been enacted to stay operational at the height of the crisis, long-term solutions are needed to rebuild and restart. Here are some changes that are expected to make an impact on the post-COVID workplace.
#1. On-site operations reorganization
To avoid possible transmission in the workplace, offices will need to ensure that proper safety measures are in effect. The move to incorporate FlexiPlace—a work scheme that allows for a mix of off-site and on-site opportunities—is one of many alternatives to a full on-site workforce.
Off-site work is made possible with the wide range of digital tools available to accommodate remote working and collaboration.
Another effective method of reducing congestion in offices is by reworking common areas. Conference rooms, huddle areas, and other shared spaces are segmented into smaller, more isolated workstations through the use of “sneeze guards.” This ensures that workers are observing proper social distancing without making costly, permanent alterations.
Staggering the return of on-site workers, creating a shifting system, or even distributing office staff from one central office to multiple, smaller offices can help curb the spread of the virus. On the other hand, reduction, if not complete removal, of any interactions with third-party staff, customers, and premises aid in controlling the office environment from additional sources of possible infection.
#2. Heightened health protocols
While the virus remains without a cure, workplaces will need to implement additional health protocols to monitor and secure the health and well-being of workers.
It is expected that companies will be investing in cleaning staff—including equipment and materials—to ensure proper and frequent disinfection of shared areas like bathrooms and lobbies. This also applies to shared equipment such as desks and printers. In addition, water fountains, beverage dispensers, and similar vectors of contamination should be shut down or stored away.
Other on-site changes include providing a steady and readily-available supply of face masks, tissues, and disinfectants for employees and discouraging or elimination of shared personal office equipment—keyboards, headsets, mice, and the like.
Screening efforts will become the new standard for on-site operations. Temperature checks at entrances, reporting of possible exposure to the virus, and employee testing will minimize the risk of exposure and transmission of the virus.
#3. Fully-digital workplace
At the height of the pandemic, many businesses made the shift towards a digitally-enabled remote work model. Post-COVID, it’s clear that these existing frameworks will be built upon to improve current practices further while reducing the risk of transmission in the workplace.
The integration of digital technology has begun to branch out into various departments. Face-to-face meetings for client management or even job recruitment can now be conducted over video conferencing applications. Virtual meetings allow employees to recreate brainstorming sessions, check-ins, team engagements, and other essential collaborative efforts remotely.
With the shift to remote work set-ups, companies are also able to upgrade and elevate certain practices. Being able to provide better customer support is made possible through outsourcing and other digital tools, such as chatbots and response automation.
Cloud storage, digital documentation, and e-paper trails render physical file storage, transfers, and analysis obsolete. Workflows can be optimized and streamlined to be fully online, powered by strengthened communication channels that integrate well into the system.
Finally, the measures of employee performance are expected to shift from a time-based model to an output-based one. As remote work becomes increasingly common, neither presence in a workspace nor the number of work hours rendered will be reliable markers for how dedicated and committed an employee is.
Instead, outputs will be judged based on clear and objective metrics and set expectations in line with the company’s goals and priorities. Focus on these outputs and other employee outcomes will help gauge skills and areas of expertise more accurately.
#4.Renewed risk assessments
While the COVID-19 pandemic was a massive, unexpected event, it has made a lasting impact on the way companies address large-scale crises.
With health as the top priority, many businesses are reassessing the risk of continuous operation vis-a-vis the scope and limitations of health insurance, HMOs, and other protocols that can mitigate the spread of the virus.
Investment in a physical office space will now require additional considerations. Workplaces that allow for proper social distancing and use materials that withstand regular and frequent disinfection will see a rise in demand.
Additionally, with an increasingly digital workforce, objective-specific workplaces are gaining traction. The kind of interactions and operations that need to occur on-site will determine what type of office space is needed. Proximity to on-site workers and office size will also be important factors.
Another risk to consider is how to secure the supply chain and sustain operations throughout a crisis. Reevaluating these critical processes and investing in solutions like AI, automation technology, outsourcing, and workflow restructuring can ensure business continuity with reduced risk.
#5. A shift in management styles
In light of the pandemic, work has mainly moved off-site for health and safety precautions. This change means that traditional management and leadership styles may no longer be effective for a remote work set-up.
With the threat of the virus still looming over the public, a more empathetic approach will be necessary. Both management and workers are concerned with their health and well-being, making it crucial for leaders to consider this stressful and uncertain situation.
It becomes necessary to create channels of communication for voicing out both feedback and strengthening social and professional bonds between team members.
Concerns regarding employee well-being–health, financial status, job security, and living situation should be heard. Addressing these concerns through policies that can offer aid or relief to affected and vulnerable employee groups is a viable solution.
Collaboration tools and digital activities can be used to foster mentorship, check up on employees, and provide guidance and education. At the end of the day, clear and transparent communication will help promote growth and trust amongst teams. These activities can also help bring company culture and ethos into the digital workspace.
With the business landscape vastly different from its pre-COVID state, the contemporary workplace has quickened its shift into digital horizons. The health and well-being of employees are at the forefront of the changes to how work is done, progress is measured, and an office environment is recreated. It’s up to businesses to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.