What a Return to Work Might Look Like
Returning to workplaces could become the new ‘new normal’ in the coming months..
Forecasters say offices and other workplaces could be dramatically different from what they were pre-coronavirus. Although we still have a long way to go before the curve is flattened and sufficient testing is available, experts are still giving us a glimpse of what the new future might look like. Here’s what they are saying:
- Temperature testing. Temperature testing using a forehead thermometer may be required at entry points for offices. This could be for everyone who enters, including employees, or just for visitors.
- Employee hygiene. A lot of American companies are taking their cues from China, where businesses have started reopening. According to a Bloomberg report, one company has employees use hand sanitizer when they enter. They also have to wear masks. Stairs are preferred over the elevator. Employees use hand sanitizer before and after they come into contact with the handrail, which itself is cleaned frequently.
- Reconfigured office spaces. Social distancing will be a must in the office. Commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has released a diagram showing what a redesigned office space might look like, with individual desks spaced out six feet and circles in the carpet to help workers gauge social distance. Boeing has said it may install signs and other reminders to help factory workers stay the appropriate distance, according to MarketWatch. Some people may even be equipped with buzzers on the wrist bands to remind people to keep six feet apart, according to Bloomberg News.
- Staggered work schedules, especially in factories. Another way to reduce indoors congestion is by simply having fewer people inside at a time by staggering work schedules, particularly in factories. A similar idea is having stay-at-home days during the week.
- Lots of cleaning. Offices will be cleaned much more thoroughly and frequently as well. “Every surface — including door handles, light switches, countertops, copy machine buttons, AV equipment, coffee makers, and many more — will have to be dealt with,” Vox says. Other more high-tech cleaning and disinfectant options may include germ-resistant fabric and the installation of UV lighting.
- Staying home. Of course, the other option is to just not reopen the office, as many companies have discovered that their employees are able to work effectively from home. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people who worked from home was in the single digits. Now, it’s 34 percent, according to an MIT report cited by Vox. That may not change. As Vox notes, if that many people can work from home now, they can continue to do so even as the economy starts to open up.
There is still a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus-era workplaces. We’re not even sure when we can transition from this new normal into that one. One thing we can be certain about is that things will change dramatically—at least until we have a vaccine, which could be a year away.
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