Returning to Work After COVID-19: What to Expect
More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic initially forced the implementation of shelter in place and social distancing regulations throughout the US, many business owners and employees are still wondering what life will look like after the coronavirus pandemic ends and life gets back to “normal.”
With such an unprecedented situation upon us, it’s difficult to know exactly what “normal” will look like when we emerge on the other side.
In the wake of the pandemic’s wide-sweeping effects, we’re confident in saying that everyday life will likely look a bit different. There’s a very good chance things will never be quite the same.
While many people are feeling overwhelmed by the ongoing crisis, some are feeling additional anxiety as they gear up to return to the workplace after working from home for an extended period of time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Office Life Following the COVID-19 Pandemic
We can’t say for sure how it’s all going to go down once we’re no longer required to socially isolate and work from home, but we do have a few predictions about what you can expect when it comes to returning to the office following the pandemic.
Open Office Plans May Begin to Phase Out
Research has shown that people working in open and shared office spaces tend to take more sick days than those in more traditional workspaces with individual offices for employees. With fears about contagious disease heightened, we may begin to see the end of open office plans.
More Focus on Office Cleanliness
Concerns about the spread of germs will be at an all time high, which means there will likely be an extra emphasis on office cleanliness – especially in offices with shared spaces! Be prepared for extra cleaning duties, more frequent wipe-downs, and an overall renewed effort to keep the office germ-free.
Workers Returning in Phases
While there is no definitive plan for how non-essential workers will return to work, there have been discussions about returning in phases. We don’t know exactly what that will look like, but we do know that there will likely be an emphasis on reducing close contact with others in order to limit the spread of disease when the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted.
This could mean that some employees continue working from home while others return to the office, or it might mean that one half of the office alternates days with the other half to keep the volume of people in close contact with each other down.
No matter how your workplace chooses to handle the return to a new ‘normal’ after the pandemic has subsided, be sure to brush up on your post-pandemic office etiquette so you’re prepared to re-engage with colleagues and coworkers appropriately.
People Will Be Extra Wary of Sickness
If you are the kind of person that still goes into the office when you have a case of the sniffles, be warned: following this pandemic, people will be extra wary of office sickness. Don’t be surprised if you get dirty looks from your coworkers if you’re sneezing – even if you’re sneezing due to non-contagious allergies.
Keep this in mind and try to be extra cognizant and considerate of making those you work with uncomfortable. If you’re feeling at all under the weather, take a sick day or work from home instead.
It’s likely that those workplaces that do begin to bring workers back into the office will require some kind of face covering, at the very least when people are in close proximity and unable to maintain social distance.
Masks have proven to be among the most effective tools to combat the spread of COVID-19, and as a result, they will likely be an important aspect of the return-to-work strategy for employers looking to keep their employees safe and healthy.
While masks are a key tool when it comes to re-opening safely for some businesses, they can complicate some aspects of work life and communication. Don’t let this deter you!
Limited Social Interactions
If you love working in the office because you’re a social butterfly, be warned: the social aspect of working alongside your colleagues may be a bit more limited once we’re all able to return to work. Group social events may be less frequent, and outings may be limited as well. Extra activities that could encourage increased close contact probably won’t be a good idea when we all first return to work.
That said, you may still be able to do some in-office team building activities if you’re looking for a way to get your team back on track.
Offices Are Not Going to Vanish Completely
While the trend towards remote work is a strong one, especially in the wake of this global pandemic, it’s highly unlikely that the office as we know it will disappear completely. Many businesses still rely heavily on their office spaces for connection, collaboration and business development. That being said, there are some post-pandemic office space trends that will likely take hold given the fact that some employees in many workplaces will likely continue working from home.
Preparing for Work Life After COVID-19
It’s tough to say for sure what exactly work life will look like after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, but based on the information we’ve been able to gather the predictions above seem like a pretty safe bet.
And it’s also very likely that we’ll be feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for the foreseeable future. Some impacts may change how we do business forever. With that in mind, it’s important to be prepared to be flexible and open to change as we navigate this uncharted territory.
Remember: as overwhelming and anxiety-inducing as this feels, we’re all in this together. Every business owner and employee is facing some kind of routine adjustment or change in how they do business.