As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifting, and the government is encouraging office workers to go back to work, it’s becoming ever more obvious that Covid-19 has affected the future of office work and business. Whether it’s commuting to work or sitting back in the office for the first time in months, many employees are apprehensive about their return to work.
When businesses return to their usual office locations, there are many ways that Covid-19 could change office design, from one-way systems to incorporating office screens to separate work spaces. Facemasks, social distancing, and antibacterial hand gel, will become a major part of office workers ‘new normal’ 9-5.
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The decline in public transport usage
To help reduce commuting fears, where returning to the workplace is a must, public transport are doing their bit to minimise any Covid-19 spread between commuters.
In the UK, masks became mandatory, trains and buses were running at reduced capacity at times, and much of the seating has been taped off. Where it is possible to avoid public transport, some usual commuters have been eager to find safer and alternative ways to travel to work. Recently, there has been a rise in UK car dealer sales as the ongoing pandemic pushes more people away from public transport.
Business owners face a reluctant return to the office
Although remote working has been gaining in popularity with businesses over the past 10 years, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the number of employees working from home up dramatically. Now, with restrictions easing, and after consultations with company employees, many businesses have decided to continue remote working, with just a few key personnel returning to the office.
A recent report by the BBC asked fifty of the biggest UK employers about their future plans for staff work routines. Each said that they have no plan for a return to the office full-time in the future. While a few firms announced a return to the office no earlier than late autumn, Facebook itself doesn’t plan for a return of their employees until July next year. For those whose only option is to return to their place of work, employers have been busy putting their own safety measures in place.
The future of retail customer service
Throughout the pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt to a new way of working and interacting with customers. When restaurants, cafes, and pubs were forced to close their doors earlier this year, many chose to start up delivery and collection options that they hadn’t had before in order to keep their business going. Supermarkets and other shops have had to adhere to government guidelines by introducing social distancing measures, hand cleaning stations, and other safety measures in store.
Many eating establishments have introduced tighter booking and indoor seating measures such as plastic screens to divide tables and table service only. For the foreseeable future at least, customer service will be a little more distanced than what it used to be.
Flexible work routines and more permanent workstations
In the office, employers are offering staff a number of options in an effort to retain as many workers as possible. Where office numbers have to be reduced to comply with social distancing, many businesses are offering part office and part remote working. Others are offering flexi-hours, to minimise office numbers at any one time, while others are considering a shift system. While there used to also be many offices using hotdesking or shared work spaces, now employees will see more set desks day-to-day to avoid contact with other people.
However, with a set workstation, there are still many ways to make your office stress-free by decorating your cubicle space and adding a new desk plant. In larger offices, where a lot of staff need to move around, one-way systems are being installed to minimise contact. Drinking fountains may be turned off and office break rooms might be closed off altogether where social distancing is impossible.
Whether at home, at the office, or at your usual place of work, day to day living and working as we know it has dramatically changed for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, it could also be a time of positive change. With employers being more considerate of their employees’ needs and working more closely with staff than ever before, perhaps the time’s not that far away when we can all begin to look forward to a better and brighter future.