- Companies such as Google and Facebook plan to implement the work-from-home system by mid-2021.
- Companies that do open the doors of their on-site offices would have to bear in mind social distancing and hygiene protocols, such as temperature checks and avoiding hot-desking.
- The Canadian government offices which was slowly opening up have been mandated to follow strict guidelines.
- The government has announced a 4-week extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides financial aid to Canadian employees who are directly affected by COVID-19, and is expected to provide additional benefits to those still entitled post September 27.
- 'Homebody economy' will gain steam in the future as more companies adapt remote-working system.
One of the most radical changes brought forth by COVID-19 has been the way office spaces function. When the virus hit a pandemic level in March, leading governments across the globe to enforce shutdowns, offices were forced to switch to a remote-working. Ever since, ‘working from home’ has been the new normal.
But what happens when the pandemic is over? Well, one thing that is safe to assume is, office spaces will not be the same. While technological advancements had altered the office space to a great extent in the last few decades, things can be expected to be much more different in a post-COVID world.In this article, we look into a few such changes that can be expected.
A Homebody Economy
A global research study by Lenovo in July showed that 63 per cent employees feel much more productive working from home. At the same time, real estate company JLL’s May survey showed that while majority of employees didn’t experience a change in productivity, 44 per cent of the survey set did miss social interactions with their colleagues at workplace. While many companies are easing back into the traditional office life as the pandemic-triggered constrains are slowly lifted, others are extending the telework or work-from-home regime well into the next year.
Google has allowed its employees to work from home till June 2021, and Apple employees are not expected to return to offices until early 2021. Facebook has not only extended its a work-from-home regime till July 2021but has also offered to pay employees and extra US$1,000 for “home office needs”. Twitter, meanwhile, has topped all its tech contemporaries and stipulated a remote workforce model indefinitely.
The adaptation of homebody economy is not just a plan for tech giants. Global research firm Gartner recently conducted a survey that shows 74 per cent of 317 CFOs and business headsplan to swap their on-site offices for a remote one permanently. The health and safety of the employees is not the only driving factor behind a work-from-home model – there is also a substantial cost-reduction for both the employer and the employee.
Companies switching to a work-from-home system has seen an impact of the office space real estate market. Some companies, such as Canadian tech firm Open Text (TSX: OTEX), chose to shut down their on-site office buildings.
Technology Will Be Your New Best Friend
From video conferences to registering attendance online, the work-from-home regime has brought about countless little changes that would not have been possible without technology. In a post-COVID scenario when employees return to their office spaces, some of these technological changes can be expected to continue.
Instead of cramming people into one conference room, video conference and meetings will still be encouraged. Online chat rooms such as Slack and Microsoft teams, where employers and their employees can be in constant touch with one another, has already become a new normal.
Limiting Common Touch Points
Biometric machines can also be kissed goodbye. The fear of touching common surfaces that the pandemic has introduced us to is here to stay. Hence, alternate methods of registering attendance at workplace can be expected. Offices can also be expected to go one step ahead and install sensors to monitor cleanliness and density in office areas.
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Hygiene Will be Top Priority
Offices will be expected to implement such steps to ensure intense hygiene. Practices such as shared cubicles and hot-desking (where a single workstation is used by multiple people based on daily or weekly roster) will be discouraged. The office layout would have to be restructured to accommodate social distancing between employees. Disinfecting desks, bathrooms and other common surfaces at intervals and installing hand sanitizer stationsis expected. The office would also have to ensure the absence of sick employees and regular temperature check-ups.
Limiting the number of employees present in office at a given time will be critical. Force-fitting employees into lines of cubicles the minute the government-stipulated constrains is not recommended by health experts.
The Canada government itself, which is in the process of easing its workplace restrictions, released a set of guidelines on August 12 that instruct employees on how to go about in the public office buildings. The list details protocols about entry and exit, usage of staircase and elevators, direction of paths of travel, etc.
Federal Government’s COVID Recovery Plan
The Canadian government has announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which is due to expire on September 27, will be extended further by four weeks. The CERB provides financial aid to Canadian employees who are directly affected by COVID-19and is expected to provide additional benefits to those still entitled post September 27.
The government can also be expected to implement more stipulations regarding office space functioning once the containment measures are further eased. For now, strict protocols are being followed at government sectors that have opened up.