Carole is an IT support technician from Jersey City. For weeks she tracked the spread of the Coronavirus as it swept through the United States. Her employer closely monitored the situation too, consulting guidance provided by OSHA and the CDC. When his initial efforts to keep teams separated to ensure safe social distancing failed, accommodations were made for Carole and her co-workers to work from home until further notice.
Despite having to juggle the demands of working in a small apartment alongside her husband and son, who was now finishing his last year of elementary school remotely, Carole was lucky. She and her husband remained employed and her family remained healthy.
The New Normal
It is anticipated that once the stay at home orders are lifted, life as we know it will be different for a very long time, perhaps altered permanently. How will the workplace change? What will the new normal be for Carole when she finally returns to the office?
We’re likely to see employers implement tactics to reduce the number of employees working in the office at the same time in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Rotating groups of employees, having one onsite for several weeks while the other works remotely, then switching, is one way to accomplish this.
Fortunately, many companies have now adapted to remote work, and we’re likely to see this trend continue. According to a Gartner survey of 229 HR leaders, 41% of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time post-pandemic.
For businesses in which remote working isn’t practical, staggering shifts is another way to reduce headcount in the office.
A transformation in workspace design
According to the New York Times, “the pandemic may result in fundamental changes, altering how office buildings are designed.” Office plans that previously focused on accommodating many people in a small space, will likely be replaced by plans to keep co-workers separated. Large conference rooms with sizable seating capacity may need to be reconfigured so that chairs are separated to allow co-workers to keep a safe distance from each other.
Carole’s seating situation is like many. In her support role, she sits within close proximity to her co-workers. Rather than have a designated workspace, they share hotel-style seating. This type of seating arrangement will likely be suspended until the fear of contagion is a memory.
We may also see changes in bathroom and kitchen design to accommodate more sinks for hand washing, and the addition of faucet and toilet sensors to eliminate surfaces that can be touched. Easy-to-wipe, antimicrobial materials may soon become the new building material of choice for the kitchen, bathroom, and office.
Changes in culture and policies
We’re likely to see more organizations adopt wellness initiatives in an effort to keep employees healthy. To promote good hygiene, we may see more sanitizing stations, tissues and trash cans, in addition to access to more sinks for hand washing.
The fear of getting sick will keep employees on edge for a long time. Every sneeze and cough will be scrutinized. As a result, companies may change their policies to encourage employees to call out when they’re sick. Employers may have greater obligations to protect their employees from the spread of germs. For years lawmakers and OSHA have pushed to move worker protections from infectious disease exposure through Congress. The Coronavirus may be the impetus to make that happen.
Balance Point is committed to be a resource to you now and long after this pandemic ends. If you have any questions, schedule a call with us.