A year and a half into a global pandemic and we can now finally start grasping at some form of normality. This “new normal, a term so regularly overused, will be no easy feat. This is certainly true when it comes to the social aspect of office work.

At the start of the pandemic, governments classified physical office work as nonessential and forced many employees into remote working and telecommuting. As we start to move back into the office within the new normal paradigm, employers will have to reconsider what is now essential – socialization.

As much as 63% of employees say they have spent less time socializing with co-workers since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefits of working from the comfort of home – having more time to see family members, no commute time and less expenses – outweighed the necessity of social interaction. Yet with time, this social deprivation proved significantly challenging.

To get back to the office, our new normal requires a careful balance of employee interaction with the safety that remote work brought. Relying on a top office furniture company can build and maintain this balance.

Strengthening Socialization Means Maintaining Order

Gone are the days of shaking hands and standing around the water cooler. Some of our old office activities are simply too close for comfort in the new normal.

If employees are to enjoy the social aspect of the office, then employers must consider a workplace layout and operation that aligns with health and safety regulations. There are some must-haves that should be at the top of employers’ lists:

  • Size of space: As meetings and collaborations are inevitable, employers will need to provide larger and more open spaces for teams to gather. The office furniture in these spaces must support the room’s capacity at safe distances, while at the same time unifying everyone who is present as a collective unit.
  • Location of employees: To get back into the office, we have to sacrifice free movement around our workspace. According to Marcus Jewell in his contribution to Forbes, employers may turn to Bluetooth equipment, such as a card or bracelet, to monitor employee movement. Where an employee is or has been is massively important when it comes to contact tracing and social distancing. The furniture in our office can help provide a safety bubble when we are in one location, but additional consideration will need to be given to how employees maintain this safety when moving from one location to the next.
  • Employee appearance: Will we get to see each other’s faces again? It appears so. Some company protocols can stipulate that when employees are distanced correctly, then masking is not necessary.

How Permanent Is Our Return to the Office, and How Can Office Furniture Contribute?

How long will the return last? The short answer: nobody knows.

In order for employees to leave the comfort and security of remote working, they need to know that their employer is doing everything possible to ensure their safety. If employers want the best shot at achieving the office life of the past, then they must rebuild the workplace environment on a sturdy foundation.

This is why, in the new normal, workplace socialization will be designed with safety in mind.

If employers are to consider socialization as essential to the new normal of office life, then workplace safety becomes far more multifaceted, and health and safety gets broken down to a far more basic level. This basic level emphasizes the type of office furniture used and even the location of this furniture. Airborne viruses increase as the talking, laughing, and breathing of human interaction increases. For this reason, employers will even have to consider the structure and materials of their office furniture; they need to be sturdy and easy-to-clean.

Let’s face it, going back out into the world is scary when the threat of COVID-19 is continuously hanging over our heads. The methods of human connection and interaction have changed drastically through the consequences of isolation and virtual connection.

However, we are now at the point of moving out of our homes and back into the office – albeit on a hybrid basis. Rebuilding a face-to-face environment will be no easy task. With the help of a top office furniture company, employers can build a safe and social workplace. Contact the experts at POI today for more information.