A REALIST POV OF RETURNING BACK TO WORK BY:TATIANA SOLDATOVA
Fellow remote workers, you have most likely seen topics of “How to get your team back to the office in the new age of COVID-19.” Our team has consumed many recommendations from landlords and furniture manufacturers about workplace strategies of how to get your team back to work post COVID-19 – it’s overwhelming. I am a practical problem solver and highly enjoy assessing solutions that can further create problems. We have created a case study of each of these approaches to showcase the implications of activating these strategies.
Your typical office layout with an open working area, boardroom, meeting room, and eating area. The zones are distinguished and staff is promoted to work anywhere. Focus of companies is to build a strong culture and great working environment for their staff.
The suggestion is to have people spaced out by six feet. Depending on how large your desks are in the office – standard desk sizes range from 4-6 feet long. If you are lucky and have a 6’ desk – you can qualify to sit beside each other. Any pinch points of a passing area less than 6’ around the office is recommended to create a circulation with arrows to restrict passage both ways.
Many furniture companies have published the use of placing panels around desks and what this will do is re-create the cubicle feel. This can be great for productivity if your position is more heads down work, but this sense of safety is false. Molecules can still float in the air and creating a visual barrier may impact the mental wellbeing of your staff. Air quality in office buildings in particular is not great, especially when the HVAC system is old and continually recirculated stagnant air. Relocating furniture is also not simple as most systems are electrically hardwired and will require new support legs to reconfigure the desks.
Taking the original plan and not making any modifications that will financially impact the business, we recommend the following approaches: First, give your staff the choice of coming in or not – some people will want to get back in and others may enjoy the remote work life. Second, give people autonomy of their space by providing sanitizers, wipes, and masks in the office. Third, is to implement shift work to space people apart if your office is not large enough. Lastly, mental wellbeing is another factor that we should not ignore – feeling of safety is the second tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Will your work offer more support for therapy or meditation practices to aid with the emotional impact this can have on us?
Those are the four pillars we are focusing on for our office: Choice, Autonomy, Shifts, and Mental Wellbeing.
Humans are creatures of habit and time will pass, this too shall pass. These recommendations may be useful for a few months or a year – but I highly believe we will get back to our previous normal but hopefully with better HVAC systems and natural light promotion. Companies that had to update their mode of operating and switch to digital systems is something that has been active for over ten years – you must adapt as a business and pivot.
We recommend adopting a realist approach that balances safety, different working styles, and maintains the reasons why we need an office in the first place: a productive environment that fosters the creation of meaningful work with our collaborators and colleagues.
Below is the overview of ideas showcased in the diagrams and the execution plus cost implications to activate them.