The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to think about how we work and what we value in a workplace. Prior to the pandemic, just 3.4 percent of Americans worked from home. That all changed when the world went into lockdown. A report by Upwork in partnership with MIT found that nearly half of the U.S. workforce was working remotely. Today, the question in every industry is what will the workplace look like moving forward?
The office will continue to be important for many companies and workers, and the benefits of an office environment—such as training, mentorship, and collaboration— will remain as essential as ever. But how can we realize the upsides of an office environment while keeping employees safe and healthy? Beyond the short-term requirements of creating safe spaces for employees to return to, the mid-to long-term focuses needed to support staff productivity and a healthy culture will center on choice, trust, well-being, and health.
During a time of great disruption, strong companies and strong workplace culture are built upon leadership, management, and most important, ensuring that people feel connected to their colleagues and to the mission of the company.
One of the most important lessons learned is that both companies and workers desire flexibility and the office space will need to adapt in order to survive.
FIELDBOSS has always offered a flex-style work policy and the ability to work from home, so when the lockdown hit, the transition was seamless. Since then, we have implemented many precautionary measures to have staff members safely return to the office and have even adjusted the office itself.
Our workstations are separated into corner cubicles more than 6 feet apart to allow for social distancing and we have multiple private offices for those that are more comfortable with closing a door. Hand sanitizer is available all over the building, as well as a nightly cleaning crew.
However, building a healthy and safe environment for the staff is more than just social distancing and hand sanitizer. It is also about mental and physical health.
Mental Health & Fitness
Having everyone congregate in our conference room/common area is likely a thing of the past (at least for the foreseeable future). This is why we turned this space into a gym.
The gym is used by one employee at a time and wiped clean afterwards. This is a perfect escape for staff members and allows them to get some exercise during a time when public gyms are not safe, nor open. This is also a proven way to reduce stress and increase brainpower.
Bright, New Spaces
With few people in the office on a daily basis, we also thought it was a great time to do some more renovations around the building. New bright, spacious, private offices are being built upstairs to create another safe spot for when employees are ready to return to work.
Some tips for employers to consider when reimagining the workplace are:
De-densifying the space
This can include considering the square footage per employee when creating a spread-out space. This allows for social distancing and leads to improved ventilation.
A staggered approach when returning to the office
This can mean having employees in on alternate days or times and always offering remote work.
Stepping up amenities
This can include upgrading spaces such as the kitchen, fitness studio or gym, or even a common quiet area.
As employers around the world experiment with bringing their employees back to the office, the leadership must act right now to ensure that when staff return, workplaces are both productive and safe. Most importantly, organizations must keep in mind that when making changes to company policy, office layout, or otherwise, the primary drivers of decision need to be mission, culture, and corporate values.
We look forward to the day when we can all be together in the office. In the meantime, we have done our best to offer a safe and healthy space for our staff to come when they need a break from their home office.