Going back to the office, whenever that happens for different regions and industries, is going to be an interesting and potentially stressful experience for many. In an effort to effectively balance safety, employee sentiments, productivity and logistics, many enterprises and leading corporate real estate companies have designated task forces to design the workplace of our future. Representatives from human resources, operations, communications and real estate are being pulled together to answer the questions on every employee’s mind: when will we be going back to the office and what will it be like?
The office will be unquestionably different from how it existed before 2020, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every change will be noticeable. As we move forward, the more obvious components of return-to-work initiatives, such as mandatory temperature checks, may fade, but workplace readiness solutions will carry on, keeping us safe long into the future.
Flexible Work Schedules
The pandemic has provided the world with the opportunity to evaluate different modes of working, and with 90% of employers saying that working from home has not hurt productivity in their organizations, it seems as though flexible working schedules are here to stay. The ability to work both remotely and in the office has presented organizations with opportunities to save money on their facilities while keeping building occupancy at a safe level.
This hybridized approach to the workplace will have interesting implications for the way working lives are structured. We’ve already seen organizations asking their employees to treat the office as a collaboration zone - not a place to go and send emails. Perhaps in the future, this will look like a split week with two days in office for physical collaboration, and three days working from home. These types of arrangements could be a boon to working parents, turning a situation that has been hard on careers into something beneficial down the road.
Social Distancing in the Workplace
There are a lot of highly visible ways that social distancing can play out in the workplace. From decreasing the capacity of meeting rooms, lobbies and elevators, to marked desks, the first application of social distancing at work is going to result in a lot more highly visible signage.
However, as enterprises have the capacity to deploy more future-proof solutions, much of this will fade into the background and become a part of daily life without the omnipresence of informational posters. As corporate workspaces take advantage of digital mapping and indoor intelligence technologies, they will be able to monitor congregation in smart dashboards.
It has therefore never been more important to make sure HVAC operations are optimized to keep people healthy. This could mean extended HVAC hours, enhanced filter maintenance and air quality sensors to keep the air in offices fresher and circulating more efficiently. By using occupancy data from an indoor intelligence platform, HVAC systems can be automated to focus on high occupancy parts of a building. This would improve air quality without running unnecessary HVAC operations at great expense.
The average person spends a third of their life - 90,000 hours - at work, but what that work looks like is a dynamic concept open to reinvention in the wake of a major global pandemic. Offices will likely look a little different as they reopen in the coming months with increased health and safety signage, face coverings and non-contact infrared thermometers. However, in time, larger offices will increasingly implement less obtrusive technology solutions that support social distancing, contact tracing, and other public health initiatives, and the medium for this workplace safety mission will fade into the background of our daily working lives.