What Will Work Environments Look like After Coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, or even necessarily close to over. In fact, coronavirus could be with us for a long time and could potentially become a seasonal illness, much like the flu.
What may be coming to a relative end, however, are the shutdowns related to the virus, put in place to encourage social distancing, and reduce human-to-human transmission at a time when we knew very little about the illness and didn’t want to put a strain on the health care system.
For example, we know now that the incubation period of the coronavirus, also known as covid-19, can be anywhere from 2 to 14 days. Recent studies have shown the average incubation period is five days.
We also know that coronavirus is very contagious, perhaps more so than the flu.
Researchers and medical professionals believe it can spread via contaminated surfaces, meaning that even though rigid shutdowns might come to an end, we should still try to practice social distancing as much as possible.
Social distancing typically means staying at least six feet away from others, and potentially wearing a face covering for your nose and mouth as well.
As we’re all looking toward the future, we continue to hear about the potential for this to spur a new normal. That new normal is likely to extend to many areas of our daily lives, including the workplace.
The following are some ways work environments might change, new technology might be used to promote more working from home, and the business world might be altered following this pandemic.
Technology Will Be Used to Facilitate Meetings
Meetings at work have been a topic of debate and sometimes contention for a while now. The pandemic didn’t create the concept that maybe we need fewer meetings in the workplace, but it could cement it.
Meetings are looked at by some as an unnecessary time-waster in many circumstances.
Now, with social distancing front and center in most businesses’ reopening plans, meetings might be limited, or they may be facilitated through the use of technology.
What’s happened with the coronavirus pandemic is that people who maybe were uncomfortable with technology or shied away from using it too much are forced to, especially if they’ve been working from home during this time.
Virtual work has become more mainstream in the past two months, and that may continue, perhaps starting with meetings.
People have to be patient as they learn to use and implement new technologies and it’s expanding opportunities for so many more people to work virtually.
There are several upsides of this, including the fact that the implementation of new technology and ways of doing things will help businesses be more agile.
Meetings may happen over video, and it gives you the chance to see verbal cues you miss when you’re communicating via email, but still affords the benefits of remote work.
Business Travel May Be Significantly Reduced
Business travel was something that a lot of Millennials had started to embrace as a perk, in contrast to previous generations that saw it as more of a burden.
There was a growing emphasis on the concept of bleisure travel, which is the combination of business and leisure trips before the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, business travel might not only be reduced, and when it does resume, it could look different from what we’re used to.
This, again, means that telecommuting will reign supreme.
At least for the near future, it’s likely that conferences and conventions will be canceled and replaced with virtual events, or at least made smaller and more intimate.
Cutting travel budgets can help businesses cut some of the losses they’ve faced during the shutdown, however.
One of the areas of reluctance for employers in the past as far as embracing more widespread remote work among employees was the fact they worried about diminishing productivity and their ability to track employees’ work.
In the future, employers might focus on increasing productivity tracking.
This could be done in a variety of different ways.
For example, tracking keystrokes on your computer could be one way, or perhaps you would log into a time tracker that would periodically take screenshots of your computer and what you’re working on.
There are privacy concerns, so employers will have to balance those with their business needs.
Formalized Remote Work Policies
Too many organizations were caught without a plan with coronavirus hit. Those businesses that already had employees working from home likely fared the transition better than those that didn’t.
More organizations need to look at what they need to do to facilitate remote work, and they should, as a result, formalize their processes as well.
There need to be guidelines about employee expectations, and how to work securely from home without the cybersecurity protections of a traditional office environment.
The End of the Open Office?
For the past few years, like so many things in the business world, there has been debate about the merits of an open office layout. The idea of cubicles became restrictive and outdated, and offices maximized open-concept designs with the theoretical benefit of encouraging more collaboration.
Employees started to resent those open office designs, and feel like they were reducing their productivity and creating a company culture they didn’t necessarily like.
Now, when people do work in office environments, there may be a return to more separation and privacy. There could be fewer communal spaces and more divided spaces, including the resurgence of the cubicle.
Of course, no one can predict the future, or what work will look like when everyone returns to the full swing of everyday life, but the above are some changes that have been talked about for a while and could become a more mainstream reality as we recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many people feel that while this time has been tragic, some of the things that come out of it could be positive in the long-term.