The Future of The Office is Social Distancing

President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives. This is good news, especially if you are a small business owner who has grappled with making payroll, avoiding layoffs and shutting your business down altogether. For the American worker, it is also a good thing and also a curious thing. Leaving the virtual workspace to return to the office will not be business as usual for those who do return to the office. I’ll share some changes I’ve noticed happening now and a few predictions on what will likely happen next.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast, brought to you in part by Proactive Talent – the most recognized and respected name in talent attraction and hiring services.

President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives. This is good news, especially if you are a small business owner who has grappled with making payroll, avoiding layoffs and shutting your business down altogether. For the American worker, it is also a good thing and also a curious thing. Leaving the virtual workspace to return to the office will not be business as usual for those who do return to the office. I’ll share some changes I’ve noticed happening now and a few predictions on what will likely happen next, after this word from my sponsor.

{sponsor: Proactive Talent}

With America re-opening up for business, companies have to take into account safety and privacy challenges that they never have had to consider before. Listen to these quotes from the technology news website – Protocol.

As companies evaluate how to safely go back to work in anticipation of the day when government lockdowns lift, they are navigating an array of challenges. Executives are talking about restricting the number of employees onsite, perhaps by staggering shifts. They are looking to support workers through benefits like child care. Real estate firms that pioneered “6-foot offices” in China are coaching U.S. companies on spreading out workspaces. Ford is experimenting with wearable technology — like bracelets to buzz workers when they get too close.

And at the center of this planning is the most potentially difficult element: testing and tracking the virus. Companies are considering a variety of testing and contact-tracing systems, but as early movers like Color have discovered, rolling out mass testing is a balancing act that requires answering thorny questions about effectiveness, privacy, price and access, while keeping up with fast-moving science and managing unprecedented health risks.

Whenever companies go back to work, some form of employer-sponsored testing and tracing appears likely to become the norm. At Color’s first walk-up and drive-through testing site for San Francisco city workers, clinical professionals must administer or observe swab tests. But guidance from federal regulators is expected to evolve, said Color Chief Commercial Officer Caroline Savello. There’s also the option of bringing testing to tech campuses. Since large companies like Apple already have health clinics on site, Savello expects to see several different models for employer testing.

A lot of the risk of exposure of this disease and of transmission is going to happen in the workforce,” Savello said. “I think what you’re going to need to see is just generally testing moving outside of the traditional health care system.”

In that rush, firms and their employees may turn to retail health care providers like Walgreens and CVS, along with providers of so-called “non-medical use” tests.

Many employees and business owners alike have been working from home for years, thanks to developments in tech that make remote work possible. For a growing number of Americans, this is the norm. Now, amid the recent COVID-19 outbreak, most companies and their workers are following suit, raising two questions; the first – “Is this working arrangement a productive one?” and second, if it is productive, do we really need an office?

Well, to answer the first question – “Is this working arrangement a productive one?” a 2019 survey by Airtasker says yes. Researchers polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely. The study found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. It’s a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility – but often at the cost of their work-life balance.

As for the second question, “do we really need an office?” well, the jury is still out.  Some people say yes, and that the office of  the future will have new amenities like touchless elevators and one-way foot traffic. Listen to this clip from CNBC news.

One company fighting to keep the office alive are real-estate giants Cushman and Wakefield. They developed a concept for a “6 feet Office” at the their Amsterdam HQ with different protocols in play to keep your co-workers at a distance and the overall office clean. So, a few examples…

  • Imagine arrows on the floor that direct you to walk clockwise (and only clockwise) so you don’t have any head on collisions with your co-workers
  • Imagine that the carpet surrounding your desk being darker than the other carpet so as to remind passerbys to remain 6 feet away from you.
  • Imagine paper placemats that you grab as you enter the office and place on your desk and use for laying down your keyboard, phone and whatever else you have on your desk. At the end of the day, when you pack up, you toss that paper placemat in the trash on your way out the door.
  • Imagine voice-controlled elevators so you don’t touch any buttons and stickers on the floor suggesting the best place to stand while in the elevator.
  • Imagine plexiglass shields between desks that are facing each other. And…
  • Imagine meeting room doors where one door is mandated for entry only and the other, exit only.

I think the concept of the 6 foot office is a good pivot for companies who have a lot invested in office real estate. I don’t blame them, they could stand to lose a lot if the traditional office dies off.  That being said, I think the 6 foot office is a useful campaign for now and will eventually fade when the pandemic fades.  And I suspect that will be some time in the very near future.

In the interim, what we will likely see in the present (presuming you are someone who has to report back to an office) is a lot of hand sanitizer in the workplace; the canceling of in-person events with 50 people of more (that’s something Facebook is doing), stricter cleaning protocols and better ventilation in your office building.  And, like CNBC predicts, I think we will see the office being utilized less and after companies assess the productivity of their workforce after being forced to work from home that they will rethink leasing as much office space in the future.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

MUSIC IN THIS PODCAST

► Music Credit: Artificial.Music Track Name: “And So It Begins”
Music By: Artificial Music @ https://soundcloud.com/artificial-music
YT Channel HERE: https://www.youtube.com/user/SmartToa…
Original upload HERE – https://soundcloud.com/artificial-mus…
License for commercial use: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License. Full License HERE – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…
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► Music Credit: LAKEY INSPIRED Track Name: “Blue Boi”
Music By: LAKEY INSPIRED @https://soundcloud.com/lakeyinspired
Original upload HERE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAukv…
Official “LAKEY INSPIRED” YouTube Channel HERE – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOmy…
License for commercial use: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported “Share Alike” (CC BY-SA 3.0) License. Full License HERE  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…
Music promoted by NCM https://goo.gl/fh3rEJ

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