COVID-19 Changed Our Office Space For the Good
It isn’t easy to find any positives or any silver linings of COVID-19. It is easier to harp on the devastation, the loss of life, the closing of businesses, and fret about our collective uncertainty. However, like all disasters, natural or humanmade, our world always (eventually) is left healthier. The reason is we do learn from our mistakes, even if it seems we keep taking steps backward. We, humans, are exceptional innovators, and we adapt because of our behavior changes. So, yes, COVID-19 has and will continue to make our office spaces better, safer, and more productive. Here is how:
Employee Behavioral Changes
It’s been nearly a year since COVID-19 has forced many businesses to shut down their offices and transition to flexible work. During that time, employees’ behaviors have changed to the point that going back to “normal” doesn’t seem possible nor make sense. Our world and how we work is different now. Businesses need to adapt to these behavioral changes and not expect everything will go back to normal because the trauma we collectively went through has changed us. Our office spaces will need to:
- Continually be clean and disinfected not just from protection from COVID-19 but all future pathogens. By learning how COVID-19 is transmitted, we also learned how all other pathogens spread. For example, employees will be more attuned to how the flu spreads next flu season. Employees will expect safe and clean offices, including self-cleaning surfaces such as nanoSeptic or disposable paper, access to hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes and masks, and proof of an exceptional cleaning crew. Read: How To Clean and Disinfect Your Office Space.
- Update their ventilation to ensure pathogens are being filtered as much as possible. The New York Times published a fantastic data visualization, “What Happens to Viral Particles on the Subway,” that explains why ventilation is crucial, noting that “masks and social distancing are essential, but good airflow is also key to reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.” They note how the subway’s ventilation system “moves air within cars more efficiently than restaurants, schools, and other indoor settings.” Employees expect better ventilation as well as opened windows to ensure their safety. Read 5 Office HVAC Solutions To Comply With State COVID-19 Regulations.
- Allow for flexible work to ensure positive employee morale and overall productivity. Many employees have gotten used to working from home, and although most want to return to the office, it may not be practical for everyone due to child and elderly care issues. Additionally, some people may be more productive at home as they can focus on their mental and physical wellness. Each of us is more attuned to our health and wellness, and for many, we do not want to go back but instead move forward with what we have learned over the past year. Office spaces will need to accommodate those who work out of the office at times. Including floating desks, more shared spaces, smaller conference rooms, technology that makes the transition from home to office seamless, and office spaces that provide safe spaces.
Well before COVID-19, businesses were realizing they needed better communication coming out of their C-suites. “Transparency” became a buzzword so overused you will find it in every company’s manifesto and mission, HR manual, or sales decks. Many businesses decided to do away with closed doors and opaque conference rooms and opted for open floor plans to project “transparency.” Companies who established intranets, virtual collaboration suites, and secure remote access to foster better communication throughout the office were better positioned when COVID-19 forced many businesses into remote/flexible work. Many companies, for the first time, started to see the importance of internal communication.
Communication is always the key to success, but too often, business owners and decision-makers gloss over the importance of it. NOT ANYMORE! Office spaces will:
- Accommodate employees with new communication technologies, including hardware, collaboration suites, and streaming apps. Businesses will continue to find secure and safe solutions to accommodate employees when working from home and working in the office. If an employee needs to work from home one day, businesses will be prepared to ensure no drop in collaboration or productivity. Read more: “6 Office Tech Solutions for Reopening During COVID-19.”
- Continue the use of physical signage. As employees have been returning to their offices, they are noticing signage to help them social distance. Signage is not new. Offices have been installing signage to help educate and motivate employees as well as parlay their branding. Furthermore, a social media trend throughout the pandemic has been the use of quotes and words. Offices spaces will adapt and double down to ensure their employees feel safe, comfortable, and motivated while at the office.