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How Social Distancing Will Change Post-COVID Workplaces

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

The weather is starting to warm up, the trees are in full bloom and everyone is…stuck at home. But with COVID-19 cases (hopefully) beginning to decline, public attention is turning toward re-opening the economy. Whether this is premature is open to debate but an unemployment rate heading for 20% and a GDP decline of almost 25% has both businesses and workers alike craving a return to normality.

But What is Normality?

The enormous elephant in the room, however, is that the normality we knew may never come back. With workers throughout the world adopting various social distancing measures like remote work and video conferencing, the post-COVID workplace may bear very little resemblance to the one we left in March.

Irrespective of enhanced testing or vaccines, the continued need for social distancing may alter the general office environment forever. While many of these changes may be quite drastic, the coronavirus pandemic may actually provide a unique opportunity to challenge accepted protocols and create a better workplace experience for all.

The End of Open Offices 

And this all begins with open office spaces. In truth, there had been growing disagreement on the effectiveness of open offices for a number of years but the need to keep more distant from co-workers may kill the concept once and for all. While there are undoubted financial benefits to such a system, various studies have found significant decreases in productivity, face-to-face interactions and job satisfaction compared with a more private office setting.

With this in mind, organizations throughout the world are seeking solutions to both keep their employees healthy while increasing productivity. This has led to numerous innovations like the “Six Feet Office” which uses properly spaced desks and visual cues, such as bold colors and large circle designs in the carpet, to remind employees to stay six feet apart at all times.

Social Distancing Will Mean Less In-Person Meetings

In keeping with allowing workers to have more breathing room, the need to cram multiple people into meeting rooms multiple times per week may also come to an end. As anyone who has ever attended a meeting knows, you’re lucky to have three feet between yourself and your co-workers. And with social distancing expanding everyone’s required personal space, coordinating meetings via video conference will become the norm.

A major part of this will be to only meet in person when it’s truly necessary, making meetings for the sake of meetings a thing of the past. And while some scenarios undoubtedly benefit from everyone being together in one room, giving employees the freedom to video conference offers both time efficiency and productivity.

Allowing Employees to Work Remotely if Desired

There has long been a reluctance on behalf of many companies to allow their employees to work from home. This was borne out of a number of factors, primarily that output would suffer and also that everyone would want to work from home all the time. However, the simple fact of the matter is that being at work is not the same as working. Empowering employees to work remotely allows them to work on their own schedule and puts the focus on the quality of their work rather than on the time it takes to get something done.

Aside from enabling employees to get work done safely and efficiently, remote working has another huge benefit. From a purely capitalistic perspective, allowing an employee to work remotely (even part-time) can save a company $11,000 per year. Even if there weren’t productivity or work-life balance advantages, savings like that can’t be ignored.

Staggering Schedules to Enable Social Distancing

Related to empowering employees to work remotely when required is staggering workplace schedules to maintain social distancing. The assumption that the traditional “9 to 5” workday is desired by everyone is outdated and aside from letting employees work on their schedule, you’re also making it safer for everyone. This will be especially useful in tighter office spaces, with shared office environments becoming more spacious with fewer workers present. If paired with a remote working policy, any organization could have all of their employees working comfortably, safely and independently. And as any employer knows, happy and healthy employees are productive employees.

Such an approach has been used by multiple companies in China, with live-streaming platform Huya operating staggered schedules in conjunction with a “peak-shifting” policy.  This allowed them to both vary arrival and departure times for some workers while shifting others to a Saturday to Wednesday rotation instead of the traditional Monday to Friday.

What Social Distancing Means for Emergency Managers and Safety Officers

Of course, all of these potential changes may not come to pass. However, any major alterations to organizational work practices will have knock-on effects for those charged with keeping employees safe. With everyone working the same hours, a safety officer is always available to initiate appropriate responses. However, staggered schedules and remote work policies extend both the hours and area that need to be covered. For safety officers, being able to respond to an emergency immediately is absolutely crucial and CentrAlert has the ultimate solution.

No Matter What Your Schedule, CentrAlert’s Mobile Guardian App Allows You to Stay in Control

In the post-COVID work environment, advanced technological solutions are essential to keep everything operating smoothly. And when your job is to keep your employees safe, this is especially important. For users of CentrAlert’s Crisis-Driven Alert & Control (C-DAC), we have now added the Mobile Guardian App which allows users to activate critical safety actions no matter when a crisis may strike. The Mobile Guardian, which is available for both Apple and Android, offers a sleek, user-friendly interface to allow authorized individuals to run Protective, Drill or Maintenance actions from any registered mobile device.

These solutions can be adapted to fit any post-COVID workplace safety plan and if you want more information on how CentrAlert can protect your coordinate your organization’s emergency response, please click here.



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