The year 2020 will be remembered as the year that accelerated the evolution of the office.
We all know that remote working has been a global success for many organizations and their employees. Remote work has cut out the commute, enabling people to spend more time with their families, has helped people save money by having no fuel or lunch expenses, and has allowed us to truly embrace and understand the need for video collaboration.
So, although the workplace that we once knew will change, the office won’t entirely come to an end. Companies will now implement a new working model that combines working from home as well as office time. This modern working approach will require changes within the office to minimize contact amongst employees and increase safety measures to reduce transmission.
Organizations around the world share the responsibility of knowing when their office spaces will be fully prepared to reopen and must factor in the ramp time in order to do so safely. There is no room for ‘I think we’re ready.’ In order to be fully prepared to protect the safety of employees, a workplace audit should be conducted to identify and assess return-to-work risks and help identify necessary safety measures, depending on employee capacity and space. During this audit, companies should also re-assess their COVID-19 policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with new guidelines.
What to Expect:
Inviting employees back on a part-time staggered basis provides teams with the opportunity to collaborate in person without having the office back at full capacity. By implementing this, organizations will need to monitor closely the number of employees that are in the office at one time wisely and increase how often the office is sanitized.
Social Distanced Office
The 2 metre / 6-foot rule will remain, and a clockwise walking system may be put in place to minimize transmission. To visually instruct and remind employees of these new systems, signage will likely be introduced in corridors, meeting rooms, canteens, and restrooms.
Video collaboration will remain at the core of how we work in this hybrid model, allowing us to connect with our colleagues through a touchless office experience.
To reduce contact in the workplace, we need to utilize technology such as voice recognition to join meetings, take notes, and book meeting rooms. Artificial intelligence technology that can automatically recognize who is in a meeting room provides possibilities and flexibility within the office.
The office will also become more intelligent by some organizations introducing facial and gesture recognition, which could replace login and control devices, as well as door handles and physical buttons.
Mobile applications could also be implemented to track and remind employees of social distancing rules by sending alert notifications to employees’ mobile phones, should they breach these rules.
Physical to Digital
Although paperwork is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, some organizations pre-COVID still actively print documents out of habit. To reduce contact, companies will need to move away from hard copy paperwork and introduce additional security measures to protect company data and information online, when in-office and remote. Sharing and live-editing documents in the team space will reduce contact through digital collaboration and will also reduce our carbon footprint, which is another plus for the new norm.
Businesses will also be required to re-evaluate what their work landscape looks like and upgrade these spaces to reduce capacity, so employees feel safe and can collaborate comfortably when returning to the office. Organizations may also remove large meeting room spaces and instead build use case-specific spaces, such as 1:1 rooms and small yet open huddle areas with good airflow.
Spaces within the office may also be transformed into mudrooms, providing a designated area where employees will go to for a temperature check and to sanitize their hands before entering the office, increasing employee safety and reducing the risk of spreading germs.
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year that accelerated the evolution of the office, which for many people is a positive. Embracing the hybrid workplace has highlighted just how adaptable businesses are and how innovative technology truly is to the future of work.