What An Office Manager Wants You To Know About Returning To Work

Goodbye open plan, hello cubicles...

If and when you return to your office after the novel coronavirus pandemic, you’ll probably notice some differences.

Missing the watercooler chats with colleagues in the office? Slightly relieved about not having to waste valuable time commuting in and out of work each day? Fearful at the thought of hot-desking again? 

Whether you love it or hate it, it seems working from home could be coming to an end for many of us across the country. In some ways, the concept of returning to work can seem exciting to us all: you get to see your work friends after 3 months apart, you'll no longer have constant back pain from your kitchen chair and best of all, you'll never have to attend a Zoom call ever again. 

But for all the good that comes with returning to the office, there's a wave of stress and anxiety. It’s a complete shift in mindset: instead of staying home and sheltering ourselves from the virus, we’re now being told it’s okay to get on the bus and return to our pre-corona lives. Add that many people are experiencing the familiar ‘return to work’ dread you might feel after some time away from the office, and it’s no surprise so many people are finding the prospect of returning to work anxiety-inducing.

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It’s clear that changes have to be made to comply with social distancing guidelines – but what exactly will this involve? In fact, will we even need to go back to work in an office at all? Safe to say, there are a lot of questions that need answering. 

So, with that in mind, we caught up with Emma-Jane Donlon, General Manager at the VIEW, to find out exactly what to expect from offices when we eventually return to work.

Working from home will be the new normal 

The economic impact of the pandemic will likely force many employers to cut costs. For companies to reduce their rent obligations by letting workers work from home is an easy solution, one that’s less painful than layoffs. 

Furthermore, the necessity of working from home brought on by the pandemic has also made many employers and employees realise they can do their job just as good - if not better - from home. In fact, several tech companies such as Google and Facebook recently announced that they would continue to allow employees to work from home until 2021. Twitter is offering employees the additional option to work from home permanently if their job allows for it. Virtual working appears to be a better and easier solution than reconfiguring office spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines and managing the myriad of challenges that come with trying to ensure employees aren’t exposed to unnecessary risks.

INCREASED cleanliness

Pre-pandemic, most offices had cleaners who would come in at the end of a working day to clean the bathrooms, kitchens and office floors. However, many employers relied on their employees to keep their desk and general office area clean and tidy with many. But going forward, offices will be hyper-conscious and vigilant around cleanliness going forward. Office spaces will need to demonstrate that they have implemented enhanced health and safety protocols for cleaning desks, meeting rooms and common spaces in their properties, as well as back-of-house areas.

"We are encouraging a ‘clean as you go’ approach by supplying sanitizing wipes in each office and desk zone, sanitizing stations at each entry point and PPE supplies are available at the front desk," says Donlon. "Daily cleaning services are provided by our contract cleaning team. We are adhering to social distancing by closing desks off and encouraging our members to keep two meters apart, one person in the elevator at a time and awareness signage throughout the building."

WORK CULTURE WILL GET A MAKEOVER

Over the past decade, many companies (especially start-ups) have attempted to create vibrant internal cultures to increase happiness, satisfaction and productivity among their staff. This includes free breakfasts, beer taps, ping-pong tables and team-building social events - all of which you can say goodbye to. 

The problem is that social distancing will be impossible to maintain as we all crowd around various food and beverage stations, and the communal handling of games is just too risky going forward. It looks like offices will be all work and no play for the time being.

THE CITY WILL LOSE ITS APPEAL

The simple act of going into the office may never be the same again.

It’s predicted that social-distancing measures will stay in place for some time, meaning that offices won’t function at full capacity and could be redesigned to include one-way systems, temperature checks and regular disinfection. Experts say there will certainly be an acceleration of existing trends in office real estate, including a move away from traditional city offices for flexible or co-working spaces situated in residential areas.  "At the VIEWour approach to working close to home, not from home enables workers to avoid the daily commute in and out of the city. A walk, bike ride or short drive to work seems to be far more appealing than the typical hour spent travelling each way pre-COVID," says Donlon.

the return of cubicles 

Many offices have been designed to fit the maximum amount on employees - even if it means you're knocking elbows with your colleague every four seconds, a situation that people now realise creates unnerving Petri-dish conditions. 

One way in which offices are adapting to these concerns is by bringing back the cubicle. Only instead of padded dividers separating you and your colleague, there will now be a new must-have office accessory: the sneeze guard. These Plexiglas barriers can be mounted onto a desk to create a protective shield between you and your colleagues. Other post-pandemic makeovers may include hand sanitizer stations built into desks that are positioned at 90-degree angles or that are enclosed by translucent plastic partitions; air filters that push air down and not up; outdoor gathering space to allow collaboration without viral transmission; and windows that actually open, for freer airflow.

sharing is no longer polite

Along with bringing your own mask and gloves with you to work, you'll also be expected to bring your own delph. "We have eliminated all mugs and shared glassware and only offer disposable biodegradable coffee cups and encourage staff to use reusable water bottles," says Donlon. 

But it's not just mugs and bowls that you can no longer share, hot-desking if being made a thing of the past. "We have made our desks bigger to give members a higher level of comfort, privacy and most importantly, physical separation," says Donlon. "We feel the concept of sharing items is a thing of the past, so each member now has their own desk, chair and locker when signing up for a 3-month dedicated desk membership."

The VIEW is a co-working space overlooking the Malahide Marina. From private offices to open workspaces, their membership gives you your own desk, chair and locker for 3 months at a time. For more information, click here. 

Main image by The View

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