There is no “back to normal” post-COVID. Instead, we will move into a new normal. In this new normal, we will need to make space for one another, carefully clean up after ourselves, and do our best to share ideas and not viruses.
New Office Layouts
This virus may well spell the death of the open, portable office. Yes, you may be able to easily do your job with only a laptop, but you need to stay in one area, watch what you touch and wipe things down. New trends in modern office furniture will likely need to go back to at least a half-wall to reduce exposure and the risk of viral transmission. No matter what happens in office design, the distance will be key.
If we need to move from social distancing into masking, the design concern will expand; masks are slightly muffling and some of us are better lip readers than we knew. We may find that we’re again moving from in-person conversation to telephone calls, chats, or emails to share ideas.
New Office Tasks
The process of gathering, sharing ideas, and moving away from one another will need to change. We may well come to a point where everyone is tasked to disinfect their spot on the board room table before they leave the room.
This process may well become an indicator of both power and personal responsibility. Who cleans up after the boss? Will they choose to set an example and wipe up their own area, or will conference room tenders turn into real positions for guest or client meetings? The customer service aspect of disinfecting will be critical to reducing the risk of being known as a COVID-19 hot spot.
New Shared Supplies
The run on staples such as toilet paper for the home and sanitizing wipes for home and office reminds us that supplies can get critical and quickly. If you notice in the business section of your local paper that a competitor has become a hot spot, you can offer an image of ultimate customer service by incorporating your disinfecting practice, the availability of disinfecting supplies and the number of times your shared spaces are disinfected into your website and promotional materials.
It’s critical that this is incorporated with an eye to your audience. If you’re selling skateboard parts, your client base will not care that your conference rooms are cleared out and disinfected on a twice-daily basis. However, if you’re selling investment advice, insurance, or retirement planning, you have a customer service boon built into your daily practice.
New Gathering Space Requirements
Where do people gather, and where do they clog up? If folks gather in the kitchen, make sure that your mask policy is carefully stated. Try to get people to eat separately and get some post-exercise lunch together away from the shared space.
If people tend to clog up at the printer or the copier, do what you can to get printers nestled between workers. One person sharing the copier and the virus on a busy day can put your workforce in serious danger and hit you right in the productivity. Two weeks without your marketing lead person, the owner’s executive assistant, or the tech whiz who can unlock any program is a long haul. Invest in supplies that will cut down on personnel clogs.
Stay limber, stay flexible, and stay apart. Invest in a layout that makes collaboration possible without stacking people too close together. Encourage regular disinfecting of shared surfaces by the user, or set up a conference room disinfecting rotation. Do your best to find a steady source of disinfecting supplies. Finally, add tools that will cut back on spots where people stand in line to wait for data or documentation.