“Am I allowed to pick up the coffee pot?” What to expect from the “new normal”  office when you return post COVID-19

“Am I allowed to pick up the coffee pot?” What to expect from the “new normal”  office when you return post COVID-19 -

David Johnston May 2, 2020

So with the COVID-19 situation now “over the peak’ in the UK and the majority of people starting to get Zoom quizzing, garden tending and cake baking fatigue;  the thoughts for many is on the prospect of a return to the office in the relatively near future.  But what will that office look like? 

Well the experts from many property and business consultancies are currently  falling about themselves trying to explain and predict what new guidelines may or may not be imposed. LinkedIn is awash with predictions stating the “new normal” for office spaces will include mandatory temperature testing, face masks, sanitizer stations every few yards and even a return to the 1980’s style individual cubicles. The more extreme predictions have suggested some form of individual glass monstrosities that look more akin to Hannibal Lector’s glass cage, or that of the strange looking baddie in Bond’s SkyFall, than somewhere to check your emails.

However one thing that everyone agrees on is that the office you return to won’t be exactly the same as the one you left in March. It is clear that companies who manage their own office space, as well as shared office operators who house multiple business teams must quickly begin preparations for this new normal if they haven’t already.  This could and should include social distancing measures in the office work and communal areas, enhanced cleaning routines especially for high impact areas and increased resources for office users to support personal hygiene, including hand wash, sanitisers, tissues and wipes abundantly available throughout.

What about shared offices and coworking hubs?

For coworking operators there is a key challenge to overcome, and it is not just about how social distancing measures could affect capacity. (For some fitting as many desks into a space as possible has been the business model for many years).  No, an even more important challenge will be how to successfully keep the social and collaborative aspect of their spaces alive, as this is what sets good coworking spaces apart and a reason why many people sign up in the first place. Without that interaction, people may as well continue to work  as currently within the safety (and boredom) of their own home. Zoom is great, but it doesn’t replace sitting down at close quarters with a colleague or client over a coffee.

 Therefore ongoing measures need to be robust, and giving customers confidence that workplaces are safe places to return after months of isolation will be absolutely crucial.  However if potential new workplace guidance is too draconian, then it just won’t work. All office operators will need to adapt and implement sensible measures, , but nobody wants to work in a sterile, white-coated laboratory environment either. I believe the onus now also has to be on office users to follow new health and safety guidelines and ultimately to take personal responsibility for their own health (and that of others). Good personal hygiene and actually following the age old adage of if you feel sick, then don’t come to the office is key! That way, then yes you can pick up the coffee pot and we can hopefully get back to some form of normal sooner rather than later.

What do you think?

MyWorkSpot

At MyWorkSpot coworking in Maidenhead, www.myworkspotuk.com , the health and safety of our members and their guests is paramount. Preparations are already well underway for the return to the office by the majority of our members. This has included rolling out a new health and safety policy, enhanced cleaning routines, personal hygiene facilities and new social distancing measures including reduced seating on work stations and opening an additional hot desk area to help members spread out. We’d love to hear what your expectations of  the new workplace normal and what other operators are doing.