We’ve recently been writing about how commutes are going to be altered after quarantine orders are lifted. The way most people travel is going to be different. We’ve been hearing about big pushes for biking and walking to work for more sustainable and safer commutes.
There’s more than just commutes, though — you’re going to need to address the working experience and situations you and your employees will be facing in the office. There are going to be employees who come to the office every day and maybe some who come a few days a week. Whichever it is, you need to help employees acclimate to a new work experience all over again.
During this time, companies and employees have shifted to new work environments literally overnight. Employees who never worked from home and weren’t prepared for this drastic change have been thrust into a new situation. Now that entire companies have seen they can maintain relatively normal productivity levels, more employers may move to expand their work from home policies post-COVID. Some large companies have estimated they expect at least 30 percent of their workforce to adopt more permanent work-from-home schedules.
After this, the best commute for employees could be no commute at all. With increased caution toward public transit as we first head back to the office and need for alternative commuting, working from home may be the best option. This doesn’t have to be a five-day-a-week policy, but helping your employees transition to new work policies will be vital — at least until people begin feeling comfortable in crowds, which may not be until we have a vaccine.
In an office, employees usually have access to an additional screen, an individual desk, a desk chair, or maybe even a standing desk. At home, on the other hand, an employee’s setup is probably lacking in comparison, especially for younger workers who may live in studio or one-bedroom apartments and have little distance between work and home life.
Work-from-home benefits aren’t something we’ve really seen before, but neither is a work situation like this. During and after quarantine, employees are going to need a little extra help. Issuing a work-from-home stipend or providing a second monitor for employees’ home offices can make their lives easier. You can help take some of the financial burden off working from home, just like you used to for commuting to the office. A little bit of help for the employees who commit to continue working from home after this is over will be huge.
Modified work schedules
Although most people are sitting at makeshift desks right now, working remotely may not be a full-time solution when the time comes to head back. If this is the case, you may want to think of different arrangements for your employees, like modified work hours.
Allowing employees to come into the office from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. or 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. means they are commuting when streets, sidewalks, and public transit are far less crowded. You’ll also be able to stagger the number of employees in the office at any given time. Safer conditions and shorter travel times will both be major concerns when life transitions to post-quarantine. You can also offer half-day options for employees to be in the office in the morning and continue working from home in the afternoon, or vice versa. Ultimately how you proceed with new work from home policies and modified work schedules is up to you, but you need to be patient and understanding of employee concerns and situations.
Common work areas
If you have employees who start coming to the office on a regular basis, you need to be aware of how the office will be with a reduced in-office workforce. If 10, 20, or 30 percent of employees decide they don’t need to be in the office every day, the office will definitely feel different.
To make the office experience more comfortable, you may want to think about adopting looser seating arrangements or hot desking. This just takes away assigned seating, allowing employees to work from an area or desk in the office they’re more comfortable with. Some employees may revert back to the seating arrangement they’re used to, which is fine, but some employees may choose a new, more isolated setup.
You can also invest in more common work areas. We’ve seen companies add restaurant-style booths to their spaces in order to encourage employees to break away from their desks and find a change of scenery. This may not be possible to replicate given concerns over shared spaces, but the mentality behind it is what you want to think about — creating a way for people to feel connected in the office. If you're heavily sanitizing, offering more seating options can be a plus.