No matter what industry you’re in, the work world has changed very dramatically in the past few months. From total shutdowns to the essential workforce, virtually no one is working in the same exact way they were before COVID-19 began to spread. So what does that mean for your own job, even if you’ve been working all through this crisis?
1. Physical distance and masks will become the norm
Retail, food service, healthcare, and other fields where being present is non-negotiable are among the first to undergo the drastic physical changes that many other industries are about to experience. Whenever possible, workers will be kept physically apart. And when that’s not possible, masks, gloves, and new sanitary procedures are going to become the norm.
For many office-based jobs, this presents a challenge—especially in an open office plan. How do you keep everyone healthy and safe when people are only a few feet from each other, breathing and collaborating in the open air? Many companies will need to rethink their office layouts and restrict access to common areas. Many of us may find that our workplaces require the use of masks during the workday. Meetings may look totally different as well, with people calling in from their own desks instead of gathering in closed spaces together.
2. Home is the new office
With many states will under shelter-in-place orders, people who can do their jobs remotely have been working from home. Even after the orders lift this will likely still be the case for many companies. It’s a safer option for companies and employees in the short term, especially for those who rely on public transportation to get to and from work. And moving forward, it may be the more economical option for companies that are struggling with lower revenues and ballooning costs.
Even after we’re back to some version of “normal,” many companies may decide that it’s better for the bottom line to keep employees on a work-from-home model, rather than paying the expensive overhead costs of having everyone present in an office. A recent survey by research firm Gartner found that 74% of organizations plan to shift at least some of their in-person employees to a more permanent WFH model. Some tech companies like Facebook are reportedly considering giving all of their employees the option to work-from-home, forever. Many companies will likely follow suit, to some extent.
3. Coworker relationships and meetings will be different
So many of our coworker bonds are forged by shared events like happy hours, lunches together, or projects where everyone hunkered down and worked in close quarters. If we’re all Zooming instead of meeting, a lot of those friendships and working relationships will look different. All of us will need to work a little harder to communicate with our colleagues.
Meetings will also likely become longer and more frequent, as we’ll be missing those usual small checkpoints (stopping by someone’s desk to ask a question, or having stand-up meetings that are brief). As anyone who’s done a video or audio meeting can attest, it can be much harder to get everyone understood and on the same page when we’re all subject to Wi-Fi issues, distractions, and the challenges of communicating remotely.
4. Business travel may go extinct
During the pandemic, travel (business or otherwise) has dropped to almost nothing as people stay home. Even as the world starts opening up again, travel will likely be one of the last areas to get back to normal. It may be years before conferences are safe again, and in-person meetings are also likely to be replaced by digital meetups. As companies figure out how to connect employees, customers, clients, and stakeholders remotely, many will likely decide that the travel risks and costs just aren’t worth the hassle, when a Zoom meeting or call would do.
5. Medical screenings may become mandatory
With medical privacy laws being what they are, most of us aren’t accustomed to our employers having access to our health data, let alone making active use of it on a daily basis. However, as businesses open back up, many organizations may start requiring temperature checks and virus or antibody tests as a prerequisite for merely showing up for work. Some of the biggest-name employers in the country, like Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks, have already started implementing temperature checks for their employees.
While the work that needs to be done may not change all that much, the way we do it—and where we do it—is likely to look very different for the foreseeable future. Take the time now at home to familiarize yourself with the new normal so it’s not such a shock when, bit by bit, work life starts to make changes post-Covid.
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