The way we work underwent a major paradigm shift during the COVID-19. The disruption was far and wide enough to ensure some permanent fractures in what employees perceived to be their day-to-day routine. It’s been a hugely challenging period filled with a lot of compromise, adjustment and re-contextualizing of many aspects of work life. But all of this is further motivation for each party involved to further push their ingenuity and creativity into ensuring that the workplace remains safe, sanctimonious and emerges even stronger.
To start with, the space inside the office interiors becomes a paramount factor. Especially in how we think about the various options available–workstations, collaboration areas, activity-based working spaces etc.—and how we use them. These spaces, once part of the regular day-to-day collaborative activity, will now have to be thought of in terms of social distancing. The workstations will need to offer adequate spacing, instead of just being ergonomically precise. Activity in the collaborative areas will also need to be downsized or reduced—with a restriction on the number of people at a given time. Furniture in breakout spaces will also need to be readjusted to help ensure proper safety and distance at all times.
In that sense, technology can also help bridge the gap and help employees acclimate to this new paradigm of work-life. In fact, it will play a more important role than ever and add an aura of safekeeping. Sensor technology can be used to scan the body temperature for visitors. The rate of infection itself can be reduced within the corporate office design—by using transparent screens for contact avoidance and various other touch-free design solutions. Traditional design elements that have been used so far—biophilia, circadian lighting—will also bear more responsibility than before, in order to help keep employees safe. Technology in the overall workplace design will now require more familiarity with regular implementation and employees will have to give it more serious consideration than before.
It’s all about adjustment. It’s not only about just the workplace, or the physical space. It’s also about people’s attitudes as well. The way people carry themselves in the workplace also needs to be taken into utmost consideration. The flexible, creative, collaborative and empathic attitudes that people have demonstrated during the crisis, need to be carried over when regular life resumes. All these habits need to be daily practices. Their learning and importance will help better both people and organizations. Greater things will be achieved with this sense of open-mindedness and acceptance. In that sense, the onus of this is on the people themselves. As Forbes puts it: “It’s up to us!”
The crisis is a challenge, yes. But challenges also bring with them opportunities for employees to learn, grow and create new things. The fundamental nature of jobs is also the subject of change and transformation. Now’s the opportunity to clear some ever-present gaps—between introverts and extroverts, for example—to enhance the form of organizational leadership in creative and ingenious ways. Make it healthier, more empathic and worthy of more trust. One that makes the relationship between employees and leaders healthier and more fruitful, eventually leading into an overall healthier spectrum in terms of work, goal-orientation and success—helping in an eventual rebound from crisis.
And, there will need to be a rebound and resurgence from this crisis. It will be time to rise up, collaborate and be more in sync with each other—in order to fight the massive social and economic challenges that arise from the aftermath of this. As TIME Magazine puts it: “…if we want to come out of this unscathed in the long run, we must plan for unprecedented impact and collaboration in the short run. We’ll overcome this crisis, but only if we work together and dig in.” The world will need healing and recuperation, which can only be achieved by standing with each other—not apart. This will hopefully propel people to aim higher, look for the bigger picture and work towards something that is best for everyone. It’s this attitude which will overturn this unfortunate tide and lead to people recognizing the need for being their best.
This has been a profoundly grievous period, with a lot of challenges lying ahead. But the need and drive to overcome it will be a central motif for all employees. The desire would be not only to have ‘things as they were’, but ‘have them better’.