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It is hard to believe that it has been a year since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken over our lives and completely changed the way we think and behave in the workplace. As many employees return to the office after a long year of isolation and uncertainty, there is a comforting sense of normalcy as coworkers are reunited again. With the highly anticipated return to normalcy, a lot has changed in the process and has set the stage for the future. Here’s what you can expect.
What will the office look like?
Although many new to the workforce prefer to work from home, others are itching to get back into the office atmosphere. A survey conducted by SHRM last year reported that nearly 75% of employees are eager to return to work. As the worldwide vaccine rollout continues to progress and more people become eligible, companies are beginning to open up their doors. Depending on the capacity limits and office sizes, some employers are working on an office rotation or hybrid schedule so that every employee gets a chance to return to their desk without the risk of overcrowding the office and so facilities can remain sanitized and clean.
On the other hand, those who became accustomed to traveling for work before the pandemic should not expect to travel overseas just yet. With travel restrictions and quarantine requirements still in place in many countries and states, travel does not seem like the most time or cost-efficient way to connect with clients and colleagues that are not local. Employees would have to plan and travel in advance to be able to follow testing and quarantine requirements. Companies would also have to spend more on hotel stays for their employees so they can quarantine if they need to before heading into the office. According to Forbes, people shouldn’t expect business travel in 2021, even in the years to come. The Institute of Travel Management asked corporate travel managers around the world about the travel plans in the near future, and approximately 40% said that their business travel could be down by 25-50%.
Alternative workplace options will remain in place
One of the ideas that the pandemic has proven is that thanks to modern technology, people can work from anywhere with an internet connection. The remote workplace was a shift for many employees and became a part of the “new normal.” According to a survey from Flex Jobs, 65% of employees prefer to work remotely full-time and, many companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are embracing this change are allowing employees to remain remote even after the pandemic dissipates.
With everything going digital in 2020, it has challenged us to make it as easy and efficient as possible to get work done and get the services we need. Those practicing medicine have proven that they can conduct minor check-ups over Zoom. Lawyers can attend court sessions without going to the courthouse. Most impressively, people are able to hold major conferences, meetings, and events without the stress and need to travel.
There are also still a handful of employees who are uncomfortable returning to the office at this time. According to a study by Eden Workplace and reported by Occupational Health and Safety, 61% of the workforce would only return to work if strict regulations were put in place. A quarter of them believe that there should be consequences for those who refuse to follow them. One of the ways they suggested to help them get back to the office is that companies provide them with the necessary PPE, including hand sanitizers, company face masks, plexiglass in essential locations, and requiring employees to follow social distancing guidelines.
What happens next? COVID-19 is still here
As more people become eligible to get vaccinated and more shots going into arms every day, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter, but we can not drop everything that has gotten us to this point as more employees feel comfortable and return to the office.
While we have made a lot of progress since the pandemic started with rapid testing being widely available and the worldwide vaccine rollout continuing to occur, we cannot forget that the virus still exists. As we return to the office, it is important to remember the guidelines set in place to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and our coworkers. Wear a mask if you are asked to, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. We need to keep up our efforts while COVID-19 is still present in our society.
The world has progressed so much since the pandemic began. We quickly learned to adjust our strategies and practices to fit the current situation and have discovered new ways to keep the business world afloat during an international crisis. We aren’t out of the woods yet but reminding ourselves how far we’ve come is a glimmer of hope.
April 5, 2021