An office’s historical role has been a physical place where like-minded people come together to build connections, collaborate, and innovate. The global pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the 2021 office space. It has forced workers to step out of their traditional setups to home/remote setup. This has brought about an evolution of the workplace in terms of what roles 2021 offices should play and how remote work has impacted how the job is done.
For now, even though the timeline is uncertain, many companies are getting ready to reopen. As a result, they are implementing processes and procedures that will safeguard employees as they go back into the workspace.
The Evolving Role of the 2021 Office
The office is the brain of the whole organization, an intermediary between the public and the business. Workplaces have always been areas where people can be the most productive. When employees come together in one physical setting, they can be their most creative and collaborative and accomplish more.
However, when the pandemic hit, we were forced to reimagine the role of the 2021 office. Many retaliated to working from home and collaborate virtually. As organizations are looking to reopen operations in office spaces, they are forced to redefine what an office means to them, where offices are located, and how the work is done.
Every organization will need to find their unique solution that fits the demands and expectations of employees and business operations. Knowing this, we recommend that organizations take the lead in reimagining how work is done depending on the needs and roles you have in the business.
Here are some of the steps you can take to reimagine the future role of the 2021 office:
Redefine How Work is Done
In the process of transitioning to working from home, most employees have had to adapt to new ways of collaborating and working with others. New approaches may include:
- Working from home.
- Brainstorming through a digital channel.
- Teleconferencing by imitating what has always been done on a remote scale.
The management teams should identify the most important processes in each department and redesign the process to fulfill them depending on the geographical area, functions, and employees. They should look into what can be reconstructed and strengthened to create and sustain the community and company sales culture.
Quality Over Location
In the past couple of years, talent recruitment has been a challenge for management as it has a direct relationship with where people are located and how far it is from the office. This has led to a loss of talent available for an organization as some were not ready to relocate.
This new 2021 office dynamic presents opportunities to organizations to reconstruct how they work and identify what can and cannot be done remotely and to what extent. The quality of talent an organization seeks can now be found without the worry of the borders or geographical restrictions. This approach could be a winning proposition for both employers and employees.
As well as recruiting quality talent, the future workplace must be designed around high impact activities that:
- Align with your brand
- Drive quality
- Accelerate your business
Redesigning the Workplace
We are all accustomed to traditional workplaces. Most of them have a mixture of private offices and cubicles, meeting rooms, pantries, and shared amenities. In the future of workspaces post-COVID-19, technology will play a central role in enabling employees to return to office buildings and work safely before a vaccine becomes widely available. Organizations will need to redesign their offices to account for safety measures such as:
- Managing employees’ work schedules.
- Cleaning the office regularly.
- Checking airflow is sufficient.
- Check everyone is practicing social distance inside the office space.
Organizations could create workspaces that specifically support personal health and safety.
What Should Employees Expect in the 2021 Office?
As we prepare for employees to go back to offices amidst the pandemic, many are wondering what they will be walking into as they return to the workplace. There are some necessary changes, the do’s and don’ts when welcoming your staff back on board to make the transition easier. Here are some points to consider:
There are extensive guidelines provided by the CDC and other official sources for those planning to return to work. Management should study these guidelines extensively to ensure they have put forward measures that ensure everyone’s safety returning to the 2021 office.
The workplace will no longer be the same, and we might never return to the way we used to operate. Until the day that all vaccines are provided to all, it is also vital to plan preventative measures to avoid Covid-19. Should an unfortunate event cause an outbreak to occur within the office, there should be measures to prevent the spread.
According to ILO, there are some steps recommended that you can take to ensure safety.
- Set up a team to plan and organize a return to work.
- Decide who returns to work and how.
- Adopt engineering and organizational measures.
- Adopt regular cleaning and disinfection measures.
- Promote personal hygiene measures.
- Health surveillance of employees.
- Review and update preventative and control measures.
Transparency and good communication between the employees and management is the key to promote safety and health to everyone in the workspace. Ensure you build your team’s trust by following all the up to date guidelines and communicating measures taken.
One of the strategies you can implement as employees are prepared to get back to the 2021 office is a flexible schedule. This can be achieved by introducing alternating shifts/hours.
As more offices are reopening, there will be many people traveling during peak hours. This can increase the risk of Covid-19 infection. Introducing a hybrid model of working from home and the office will show your support to employees and build trust. The hybrid model may allow workers some discretion, within prescribed limits, in fixing the time when they start and finish work. This model can increase responsibility and accountability because once those times have been chosen or agreed with the employer, they remain unchanged, making them more efficient with a clear schedule.
Another way to introduce flexibility into the employee’s routine is by promoting alternating breaks or lunch breaks, avoid using a shared desk where possible, and position staff in facing away from each other. When planning for this approach, you should consider employees’ personal circumstances to avoid inconveniences.
Until there is some guarantee of safety, companies should be as flexible as possible to allow people to choose when they are comfortable returning to the office. This is important to maintain the company culture, not just following what has been laid by the law. Your attitude and approach to reopening should be inclusive and understanding of the individual needs of your employees.
As much as the pandemic has caused adverse effects on business operations, it has also impacted people. We have all had to address these changes with no prior experience. Lockdown has put a strain on many as they have to juggle homeschooling, caregiving, childcare, death of loved ones, financial stress, among others, on top of working from home. This has added to the general stress and anxiety that this challenging year has brought. Many relationships have suffered as the pandemic has brought underlying issues to the surface. Multiple surveys indicate that divorce inquiries have increased and higher divorce rates, especially from newlyweds. A good employer will show their support to their staff by acknowledging that most of their employees are dealing with mental wellbeing.
Employee Support in the 2021 Office
Some of the things you can do to show your employee support include:
- Managers need to have a sensitive and open discussion with every individual and discuss their concerns and how they can provide support to facilitate an effective return to the workplace. This is especially important for those who were let go at the height of the pandemic and now are returning to work. Make your employees feel secured and appreciated, and they will also do their best for the company.
- Enhanced health insurance benefits. Ensure that your company health insurance policy offers comprehensive behavioral/mental health coverage. Consider ways to subsidize this coverage.
- Mental health screening tools. The pandemic’s psychological effects include anxiety about the ongoing health crisis and fear of infection and social isolation due to the lockdown. Many have experienced these challenges and it could affect their ability to cope with the work routines when they get back. Help your employees by providing onsite mental health screening tools and employee assistance programs.
- Sponsor virtual seminars, events, and retreats. Engage with your staff by finding opportunities for them to go on virtual seminars and retreats that promote mental health and well-being.
When the decision to return to work has been made, employers must take an individualized approach and follow steps to allow staff to return to a safe and mindful work environment.
In addition to a staggering work time approach, companies may wish to implement a phased return approach to limit the number of employees at a single location at any given time. Phased return involves temporary adjustments to work schedules after a period away from the workplace.
An organization needs to be mindful of the existing laws and procedures not to discriminate when determining who should return to work and when. To help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread, employees should return to work in phases. Management can poll staff to see who wants to volunteer coming back in the first phase. You can also identify the essential roles that need to be onsite, like managers, team leaders, and others.
Companies may adopt programs that offer employees alternative commuting options to reduce the risk of employees who rely on public transportation contracting and infecting others in the workspace. Benefits of this approach include:
- It helps mitigate the risk of spreading COVID19 in case of an outbreak in the office compound.
- Reduce the financial burden for employers when it comes to the commuting costs associated with going back and forth to the office.
- A phased return will give you the time to identify any issues that pop up and monitor the development closely in order for an organization to prepare the best response plan before all employees return.
- This approach will help employers develop and improve their people management practices, resulting in improved productivity.
What’s Going on in the 2021 Office Place?
Nobody saw the pandemic coming. Lockdown restrictions have affected every industry and sector, from how they operate to how they deliver their services to consumers. The changes are also likely to fluctuate, with stricter measures put forward in the near future.
No matter the industry you are in, the impact of COVID 19 has left us all in recovery mode. Everyone is looking to implement recovery measures using the past years’ unprecedented events as lessons to improve our business operations.
Now is the time for future planning to shift from reaction to recovery mode. If you are looking to reopen and find your balance in the workplace, there are now guidelines that will help you implement the best measures as you look forward to having your staff back in the office. As you implement these measures, communication with your team is key. Keep them informed of the plans that you have currently and going forward for them and the business at large will help them make their own decisions and offer them security to some extent in these uncertain times.
As an organization, do not hesitate to seek help from others. No one has a blueprint on how to handle this situation.
We Are Here For You
If there is anything we can do to support you during this time, please reach out. Even though some of us are working from home too, our doors are still open.