How are the enforced changes to working life impacting the working environment?
There is more to operating in COVID-secure environments than just maintaining social distancing, and it seems that many things could change for the better as we get slicker with digital technology and find more flexible ways of working. The government have issued guidance for employers and employees to keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the restrictions starting to ease, what changes to our working life may continue on a more permanent basis and how will we adapt?
The new working environment
Our ‘working’ environments - whether at home, in the office, on the shop floor, in a factory, or elsewhere - will all change. Those returning to the office will see significant changes with hot-desks and agile working environments declining due to employees wanting the safety and security of their own workspace. Desks will most likely become wider apart and screens and partitions may go up.
Mobility will also be affected, with one-way systems being established and the staggering of arrival and departure times implemented to regulate the flow of people around the place of work. With the distancing of employees, taking a coffee break or meeting for lunch will be a much less sociable experience.
Many employees will also PPE in certain environments will be mandatory. For those required to wear a uniform, these may need to be washed on site and not taken home. Sanitising stations will need to be added and maintained in all working environments.
Working from home - the new normal?
With a larger floor space being required to house the same number of employees, employers may encourage a proportion of employees to continue to work from home, and the impact this will have on employees’ wellbeing will need to be considered. Working from home has its benefits: more flexible working, able to care for dependants during lockdown, and reduced travel costs to name a few. But also working from home on a permanent basis may not be for everyone. Coming to an office environment everyday provides important social interaction for employees who may otherwise not see others face-to-face. Daily contact with colleagues and clients can play an important in the mental wellbeing of many people, and without this, the feeling of isolation and invisibility could be more apparent.
Our working environments are more than just a place to work. They need to make us feel safe and secure and must be fit for purpose. Just about every company will see changes in their working environment as a result of the enforced changes, whether this be home workers, office workers, retail, manufacturing or leisure, and it is how we handle these that will make the new norm.
The end of business travel?
Is this the end, or at least a slowdown, to business travel? Whether we wanted to or not, we have needed to embrace whatever digital technology we have available to keep our businesses running. Organisations have found that video-conferencing does work and that meetings can take place virtually, and with the advances in ‘breakout rooms’ within video-conferencing and virtual training arenas, the additional expense of business travel could be considered unnecessary.
However, many of us enjoy face-to-face meetings and the personal touch they afford, and it is often easier to connect with people when you are in the same room. Whilst video-conferencing certainly has a more prominent place in our working lives now, it is difficult to agree that virtual meetings are a perfect substitution for physical meetings. As lockdown eases further, it will be interesting to see whether businesses revert to the traditional face-to-face meetings, or whether they use this opportunity to invest in more advanced technology to continue with the virtual reality lockdown has created.
Perhaps for now, the only thing that is certain is that whilst we know our working lives will have fundamentally changed, we perhaps are not going to be clear on the full extent of the change for some time. At Innecto, we have been working with our clients to help them plan the road ahead – if you could benefit from support with this, or with any aspect of pay and reward, give us a call on 020 3457 0894 or email email@example.com