With the economy reopening in stages, many businesses that had been shuttered because of the COVID-19 crisis are welcoming employees back to the office, even if it will be a much different environment than the one that existed before the pandemic hit.

For starters, returning employees will find a lot more open space available as a number of their colleagues either choose to or are assigned to work from home. They will also find measures put in place to encourage social distancing, including barriers and screens. Workplace consulting can be a valuable resource in helping employees adjust to new realities, bridging the remote/office gap and ensuring appropriate resources are in play to facilitate collaboration and engagement.

While a great deal of focus has been on the development of the remote work environment, the return to the physical office will show why, in some cases, there is no place like work.

  • Most people seem to want to go to the office: According to research, the majority of employees want to return to a workplace, as long as it is fitted to meet safety regulations, including distancing protocols. A study from Gensler found that only 12% of respondents indicated a desire to continue working from home as the pandemic eases.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has showcased the effectiveness of virtual communication, but sometimes there is just no substitute for face-to-face, or rather mask-to-mask, engagement. Research shows that with ongoing virtual meetings, you run the risk of decreased engagement, an absence of opportunities for random interaction, and poor participant experience.
  • Working remotely brings its own set of issues, including feelings of being isolated and detached from the team. Coming into the office, or developing a home/work schedule, will tackle those social ills.

New Office Realities to be Guided by Density, Geometry, Division Measures

Broadly speaking, the new office realities will be guided by three directives, which are:

  • Density: Essentially, this term refers to the actual number of people gathering in a confined area. Employees will have to establish protocols to limit the number of people physically attending meetings, for instance, to meet distancing standards.
  • Geometry: The COVID-19 crisis had sparked a total rethink of how an office looks and operates. Before, offices were spacious and open to encourage creativity, engagement, and collaboration. Now, the guiding principle for office design will be focused on maintaining distance, while also encouraging engagement.
  • Division: This involves keeping people apart through the use of physical barriers, including screens, panels, and other such partitions.

Employees Will Need Guidance to Avoid Being Overwhelmed

Employees are going to need guidance while adjusting to these new work conditions. Workplace consulting will be key to ensuring workers aren’t overwhelmed by workspace changes driven by COVID-19. Here are some issues that could surface:

  • Communication: It will be absolutely vital to maintain an open dialogue between employees and employer. Questions and concerns will arrive and employers, perhaps through human resources, will need to have quick answers and actions to issues raised.
  • Engagement: People are generally social and will want the opportunity to engage with others on a social level, while still adhering to distancing measures. Employers may want to schedule times when employees can get together with their peers; make use of outdoor spaces and amenities, including lawns and treed areas, for social gatherings.
  • Technology: The new office environment will come with various tools and resources to help employees engage, share, and collaborate. Employers will want to ensure employees are well trained on these new resources, with adequate tech help if required.

The new office environment is evolving. Contact the workplace consultants at POI today for assistance in managing the changes and new realities.