We don’t know exactly when, but the pandemic will get over at some point in the future. The question is “are we truly prepared for what comes after”? Having not stepped out of the house in 4 months, I am still trying to remember what it felt like to be outdoors and around people. Things we took for granted like picking up groceries from the supermarket or hanging out with friends at a café without wondering what is sanitized and what is not or feeling paranoid about who has touched what seems far from reality now.
But surely we need to find a way to go on with our lives after this ends and a major part of the worry is “What will workplaces be like post covid-19?”.Over this span of 4 months, we have witnessed how organizations both large and small have quickly adapted to working remotely with the help of technology and some even going the extra mile to commit to the wellbeing of their employees. Having joined a new organization during these trying times and not having met any of my new colleagues in person, it has often got me thinking about the new normal with respect to workplaces. I am someone who likes to have a clear distinction between work and life and hence being in a workspace used to be extremely important for me to feel productive and efficient. But that has clearly changed over the course of this pandemic and I now believe that working virtually can create efficiency as long as the work culture is flexible enough and the team truly commits to the task at hand. The fact that TonkaBI along with our parent company STP Risk Services managed to pull off a merger with Micro Ensure right in the middle of a pandemic goes on to prove just that.
All of that aside, what happens when we get past this and actually go back to our workplaces? There are clear guidelines for businesses that are into essential services, but what about typical 9-5 offices? Some of the obvious changes would be usage of personal protective equipment, goodbye to big meetings or cramped up elevators, increased hygiene standards, rearranged floorplan to allow for social distancing etc.
Here are some initiatives workplaces should look at implementing in order to cope better with the new normal.
1. Workplace fitness culture
It is high time organizations embrace the importance of creating a foundational culture of fitness within the workplace. According to researchers, Covid-19 is not going to be the last pandemic to paralyse mankind. In the current times where having a strong immune system as the only defence against such deadly diseases has taken a new priority, companies must look at investing more in workplace wellness programs to not only ensure employee wellness but also make a positive impact on productivity and performance.
2. Shifting from business-first to people-first
Empathetic leadership and availability of open communication channels should become priorities for organizations especially considering the drastic changes workplaces are undergoing. Employee retention should become the main focus for companies to maintain low cost operations. It is also important to rebuild workplace morale since it could be an unsettling experience for employees to return back to work after months. Leaders should invest conscious efforts to rebuild workplace morale to motivate employees.
3. IT becomes the frontline
IT has to be at the top of their game in order for a company to pull off seamless transition to a virtual workplace. With operational changes ranging from recruitment to customer service, the use of digital workplace technologies that are free from the restrictions of the physical world will define the company’s overall success in the future.
4. Business travel maybe a thing in the past
There is no doubt that the pandemic will transform the way businesses interact with their stakeholders. Companies should shift from thinking “Is there a reason to do this online” to “Is there a reason to do this in person”. Although in-person meetings will not be entirely eliminated, the idea of having virtual meetings will be appreciated by both parties in the future as it also encourages efficient usage of time and resources.
We need to ensure that we make the most of these trying times and emerge stronger on the other side. I like to think of this crisis as a great teacher who made us stop and reflect. It has been nice to see how people came together to share and take care of each other. Let us hope it has a lasting positive impression on all of us and help build a new trust-based workplace.