Rethinking the Post-Corona Workplace

To say that the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19 (the dreaded disease caused by the virus) have changed the entire world is an understatement. Lives have been lost. Businesses have been shuttered. Employees have been laid off. The entire economy has practically come to a standstill! The pain and impact of the coronavirus have been devastating to everyone. 

The good news is that the curve is flattening! Social distancing, albeit at the expense of the economy, seems to be working! So now what? Does that mean we can all return to some semblance of “normalcy” in our lives relatively soon? Can we just pick up where we left off and return to life at work as usual?

Heck no! There has been way too much change to think so naively. We must rethink, reinvent, and demonstrate our resilience in order to rebound! So what might our world look like going forward? 

We must consider that the world of work has changed forever from this point forward. There are many things to rethink and reinvent to rebound! A few things that could be on the horizon…

  • There may be fewer employees in the physical workplace – We all knew that “going to work” was no longer going to a specific place like it was in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Working remotely has been successfully utilized for decades. Yet the coronavirus stay-at-home requirements imposed by the government across our nation forced many to experience working remotely for the first time. Leaders and employees alike have learned that productivity can be maintained and, in some cases, enhanced by working remotely.  
  • Workplaces may incorporate “Social Distance” Designs – With the fear of this pandemic fresh in our minds, we could see changes in workplace designs to incorporate social distancing and promote “healthy” separation between employees. This might include:
    • Revised monitoring systems for access to workspaces. Historically, access to buildings and suites have been monitored primarily for security purposes. Through specially-designed equipment, each entrant to a workplace may be monitored for health factors such as high temperatures. 
    • Amended design fundamentals of workplace layouts. Often layouts are based upon workflow to enhance productivity or efficient utilization of the space.  Future layouts may be driven by the desire to keep the workforce healthy. For example, in Europe, some organizations are contemplating forced traffic patterns within offices to keep all employees traveling in the same direction to maintain 6 feet of separation between employees at all times.
    • Altered buildouts and furniture configurations. Lately in the U.S., workplaces have large open spaces with multiple, smaller collaboration areas and cubicles with lower height panels (42+/- inches high) to encourage communication and teamwork. It’s beautiful to look across the room and have a clear line of sight to the windows and see everyone’s smiling faces! Yet there may be a return to more private offices or the infamous “cube farms” of the ’70s and ’80s that consisted of 6×6 cubicles with 54+/- inch high panels. Fortunately, with today’s technology cubicle systems are much more beautiful and can include clear panels to allow for sight and sunshine! 

Clearly, when the stay-at-home requirements are lifted and we return to work, many things will be different in the working world for both the near term and the long term. Now is the time to give serious thought to your business operations, logistics, and employees to rethink, reinvent, and successfully rebound for the new normal that’s on the horizon. 

Kim Mills is a commercial real estate broker with Phoenix Commercial Properties. She leverages her 25 years of talent management expertise to benefit business leaders and owners in improving employee engagement, driving productivity, and overall enhancing profitability by securing the best workplace for their business. Kim holds certifications as a Professional in Human Resources from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and a Certified Professional from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).