During the coronavirus lockdown, Britain’s office workers have had to get used to a new set of rules. Physical offices have shut down, and employees are learning how to do their jobs from home. Whilst we’re learning how to use a remote desktop, a VPN and new video chat software, like Microsoft Teams, we should be sparing a thought for the future, post lockdown?
What will the British office look like now? Will things go back to exactly the way they were before? Is remote work the new normal? Or will offices at the end of 2020 be something entirely new?
Commuting to the office
In 2017, 12% of British workers said they always used public transportation for their day-to-day needs. 20% said they used it very frequently. But the spread of airborne disease is making commuters think twice about getting onto a crowded train or bus.
Whether public transport will be up to its full capacity or not by the time the virus calms down is still very much up in the air. If capacity remains low, then those who depend on it may be facing unreliable service and crowding. The UK has been encouraged to cycle to work or walk where possible. For most people, working from home may be the recommended option for some time.
Keeping our distance post lockdown
For those of us who do return to the office, unfamiliar sights may await. Epidemiologists still recommend that we maintain two metres distance from one another at all times. To facilitate safe distancing, some workers may have to continue to work from home or come into the office in staggered shifts. However, the government has warned against cutting costs by hot-desking or by sharing computers or other equipment.
All workers, it says, should have their own work stations, which should be disinfected as often as is practical and preferably separated by wipeable screens. Wearing of personal protective equipment or face coverings in the office may become the new normal. The government has also suggested that companies increase the number of their parking spaces, to discourage carpooling.
For many workers, coming out of lockdown won’t mean a new routine. Office managers looking to stay safe and cut facility costs may simply carry on using the decentralised workspace that we’ve all become somewhat used to in the past months. The technology has existed for years, but sceptical executives were slow to adopt until the massive-scale stress test which flexible working is now ongoing. Now some of them are beginning to see it as an efficient and effective alternative to the traditional office. And until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is developed and deployed, it’s simply safer.
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