Six months into the new Coronavirus pandemic and we still have no clue when this crisis is going to end. Medical experts like Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins, think that the pandemic’s first wave is gone. Most likely, we are now at the beginning of the second wave. So what does that mean for how people work together and businesses operate?
Looking into the crystal ball
Truth be told, we can only speculate at this time. We might not return to the office norms we’re used to for quite some time. And this could permanently shift the way we work together.
Here are just a few of the changes businesses and workers can expect to see as we continue to rock & roll through these challenging times.
Remote is good, but so is face-to-face
Due to social distancing requirements, millions of Americans have transitioned from onsite to remote jobs, and this trend is projected to hold firm. Based on a poll from PwC, employers anticipate that 77 percent of their team members will work remotely to some extent during COVID-19, and 55 percent will continue to after the pandemic is over.
Whether more industries and companies follow suit remains to be seen, but the financial and productivity gains could be worth the permanent switch. On average, remote employees are 5 to 15 percent more productive than office workers, estimates Gallup, which can save a business $3,000 to $8,000 each year.
Yet, working from home has its downsides as well. The fine line between work and life has become almost invisible. At the same time, a workplace study found that since the COVID-19 outbreak, 67 percent of employees are even more stressed than before while adapting to the new living and working environment. And let’s not forget the parents who juggle working from home and online schooling their kids.
So what we must find, again, is the equilibrium. And not just the work-life balance, but also some kind of beautiful mathematical symmetry between online and offline, virtual and in-person.
Offices and workspaces will be reconfigured
In recent decades, many companies have embraced the open-floor office design to foster team collaboration and creativity. These workspace layouts were built to be communal: common areas with beanbag chairs, rows of desks with shared computers, and onsite coffee lounges. But now, this office style “creates unnerving petri-dish conditions,” suggests The New York Times.
For employers who intend to reopen their offices or did so in the meantime, safety and health measures are necessary. Some of these precautions include:
- Redesigning the office space to create the necessary physical distance between desks and workstations
- Mounting hand sanitizer dispensers on walls
- Installing air purification ventilators throughout the office
- Maybe a returning to private offices or cubicles instead of open stations
The office as we know it won’t disappear, it will change. Yet its purpose will remain the same: bringing people to work together.
Empathy will become even more important
Empathy has always been a key component of successful company culture, but it has not always been a priority. However, as COVID-19 continues to rock our lives, the importance of having empathy for co-workers has become paramount.
This is especially important for leaders who are working with employees managing massive work, family, and life changes, all at once. Beth Daley, editor at The Conversation explains what this might look like:
“Emotional support involves letting employees know that they are being cared for and that they should feel comfortable discussing work- and nonwork-related challenges. A boss should convey that they are sensitive to the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has on employees’ lives and work.”
I recommend you to also read this crash course in crisis management, it might prove helpful in these stormy times.
Keep on working together
None of us knows just how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. However, it is sure to leave a mark on the business world on the long-term.
The ability to work together looks much different right now, and some of these changes could be permanent. Yet this doesn’t mean the end of collaboration. Businesses will continue to adapt, innovate, and reimagine the future beyond this pandemic or another.