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Re-Imagining the Workplace: The New Normal

With the mass roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, and millions of Americans now vaccinated, many businesses and organisations are now coming to terms with the new normal. They have to re-imagine their work, and the role of the traditional office in ensuring a safe, productive, and enjoyable working environment for their employees.

Transitioning from working from home

COVID-19 guidelines required you to stay at home to curtail the spread of the virus. That meant you had to stay away from your workplace, and since life had to continue, your organization made plans to allow you to work from home.

But as the economy reopens, many organisations have to find strategies of transitioning their staff from the work from home arrangement, and back to the office. One challenge in your office will be ensuring a safe working environment in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

Since a home environment is quite different from the traditional office workspace, it is important that proper arrangements be made for a seamless transition. Such arrangements include creating a flexible workspace, with furniture that can be moved around for various needs, such as relaxation near the window.

The hybrid workplace model

It's difficult to think about a re-imagined workplace without the hybrid workplace model coming to mind. Some major organizations have already adopted this model, and have some employees working remotely on a permanent basis.

Your business or workplace may adopt a unique approach to the hybrid work model. One arrangement is having a certain percentage of staff working from the onsite office on particular days of the week, while the rest operate from remote locations. This process then becomes rotational, so all employees get an opportunity to reap the fruits of a flexible workplace.

As the world emerges from the claws of the pandemic, a re-imagined workplace should be one that gives priority to people and their wellbeing. The workplace should be such that employees that need to attend to other pressing issues not related to work, such as seeing a doctor or working out in the gym, can have the flexibility to incorporate them in their working day.

A re-imagined office

At the very centre of the return-to-work formula is the re-imagined office. This office isn't what many people could have expected because it will never be the same again, emerging from the global pandemic that changed the working dynamics completely.

You have probably spent close to a year without in-person meetings or interactions at the workplace. These essential workplace routines were replaced by virtual applications, such as Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, and you may already be feeling Zoom fatigue.

A re-imagined office needs to address these concerns to create a friendly and human working environment, and boost productivity. This would mean a delicate balancing act between upholding the COVID-19 social distance regulations and propagating in-person interactions at the workplace.

But with measures such as sanitising the office, and scanning temperatures of employees every time they enter the office, combined with regular testing for the virus, can make interactions possible again. You could also have those employees who have already been vaccinated meet in person, but with their face masks on.

Reducing the office footprint

It is also that time businesses and organisations could reduce their office footprint considerably. Before the pandemic, people and organizations rushed to have offices in prestigious locations, and to own large complexes of offices in every city across the country. It was all so well until the coronavirus struck.

Your business no longer has the flexibility to rent huge apartments or complexes because its financial stability is still hanging in a balance. There is still no way to predict how the future would look like, even with the mass vaccinations in place. It's time for businesses to put in place efficient cost-cutting measures, such as reducing their office footprint.

Reducing your office footprint requires ingenious planning. You could start by identifying departments that don't really need to be present on site to work. Look at your IT department, for example. They can dispense their duties without setting their feet in the traditional office. With things on the cloud, they can work from anywhere since they can access data and process from any device connected to the internet.

The new normal

There's no denying that the flexible workplace is the new normal, and the sooner you get used to it, the better for you and your productivity. It sure looks like the virus will be here for quite some time, and the measures in place to fight it won't be relaxed any time soon, even as vaccination continues worldwide. This means that the office will receive lots of attention in the coming years.

You are likely to shuffling between your onsite office and your virtual workspace, or home, for quite some time. But if you are working for giant tech companies like Google and Microsoft, you may get used to working from remote locations permanently. It is the new normal, and you have to adjust to it.

The implication here is that companies that offer private workspaces are likely to experience a glut in the demand for private offices. Already, some have renewed their leases in prime locations in anticipation of increased demand for flexible workspaces.

Also, the concept of 9-to-5 may be wiped out completely. This is because working hours will no longer be rigid as people and businesses adjust to the new normal. You may be reporting to work at 9 am but leave at 12pm to attend to a recuperating member of the family. Alternatively, you could take up some of your work to complete it from a remote flexible office, with welfare facilities such as gyms.

The future of work

The impact of the coronavirus on the future of work is undeniable. The virus has forced a drastic shift in the way we work, and both employers and employees have to adapt to it. While some find it hard, many others are quickly adjusting to the new normal. The re-imagined office needs to provide a safe and flexible workspace that supports the mental and physical well-being of employees.