Looking Forward With Hope: Imagining Office Life After COVID-19
What will working in an office look like after the COVID-19 pandemic?
We continue to take the threat of this virus seriously to ensure that our clients, employees, partners and communities are safe. The longer this goes on, the more important it is for us to stay on our guard and to practice safety precautions to keep each other healthy.
The grief, uncertainty and stress of dealing with this invisible enemy weigh on all of us, but we look forward with hope to the days when this is behind us. I’m finding it interesting and encouraging to ask, “What if?”
I belong to leadership networks that are asking the same questions and have seen some interesting ideas. The changes we see to everyday life will extend far outside the workplace, but let’s consider our office environments. How will they look different, and how might we act differently, in the coming months and years?
We’ve already seen handshakes disappear. It will be interesting to see whether they return over time, and if so, how long that will take. Will greeting a coworker ever be quite the same? We’ve already seen elbow bumps on the rise. Perhaps that or another more socially-distant option will become our new standard greeting.
Face masks in the office seemed like something we’d never do two months ago, but now it’s a reality for most of us. Almost everyone in the grocery store wears one these days, and I’ve noticed them sitting on the dashboards of parked cars in my neighborhood. If someone doesn’t currently have one, they’re trying to get one or making one by hand. I expect we’ll see face masks continue to be worn upon our initial return to the office environment. Will they continue to be worn for months or even years after?
I know it’s tempting to come to work when what you have is “just a cold.” But considering the COVID-19 pandemic, our willingness to stay home when we’re feeling ill may increase, as staying home is the only way to avoid infecting coworkers. Will we, in turn, be more accepting of coworkers needing a day off?
Some have discussed adjusting desk layouts, so employees are not face-to-face all day long. Decreasing chairs at conference tables to encourage distance has also been suggested, along with removing conference room tables completely, to give us more space and eliminate a commonly touched surface. For that matter, will we continue to use video conferencing and other remote work solutions to encourage distance once we’re back in the office?
Disinfectants, Sanitizer and Cleaning Protocols
We will want to do everything we can to reduce the spread of germs in the workplace. We may see an increase in hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes throughout our offices. I expect many will choose to carry their own hand sanitizer. Will we see an increase in the frequency of cleaning, and will we take extra care to disinfect door handles, microwaves buttons and countertops?
We will want to limit the sharing of technology or increase the cleaning procedures of shared technology after use. Will this result in new policies for the office? Will we see a rise in clean desk policies, which are not only beneficial for health reasons, but for information and data security purposes, too.
Will voice activation, motion sensors, touchless thermometers, fever-detecting video surveillance cameras or other no-touch devices become more common? Sensor faucets in bathrooms and kitchen? Voice-activated copiers and printers? What about touch-free bathroom doors? (My company had already put these in place before the pandemic, only weeks before we all went home.)
We’ll likely see some of the items on this list implemented in office environments. I’m sure there will be more changes that aren’t listed above. It remains to be seen what additional costs these changes may add for a business owner.
Has your office implemented any of these changes already, or are there others you would recommend?
Jim Loffler is the founder and CEO of Loffler Companies. He started the company in 1986 with dictation machines, expanding to faxes, copiers, IP Phones, IT managed services and much more. Today, the company employs over 600 team members in 18 locations in six states, and focuses on long-term relationships. Jim is proud of the many awards Loffler Companies has received over the years, including ten years as one of INC 5000 magazine's "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America." Loffler Companies is also the official technology partner of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Lynx, Minnesota Wild, St. Paul Saints and the University of Minnesota athletic department. In 2018, Jim was named one of Minnesota’s Top 500 Business Leaders. Jim has been married for more than 40 years to Darcy, his junior high school sweetheart. They have two children, four grandsons and one granddaughter. In his spare time, Jim enjoys golfing, boating, cooking, photography, music and traveling.