5 Ways That Covid-19 Has Changed the Workplace

There’s been a lot of commentary on our working life and the ups and downs caused by Covid19. As we head back into our normal ways of working, some things may never revert back to how they were. But change is good, right? Here are some observations from our Commercial Furniture Consultants on how the workplace will look different going forward.

More part time / flexible workers

The recent lockdown has forced everyone to adopt a flexible working life. Work life and home life melded together and set hours became a thing of the past. As we head back into our normal routines, many employers and employees have decided and agreed to maintain this flexibility. The traditional 9-5 started in the 1800’s by American labour unions and became mainstream in the 1920’s. Pretty much everything about how people work has changed since then, yet the hours of the working day has remained largely unchanged. It's clearly easy to work from home, still maintain productivity and have time for other things in your life which ultimately results in happier and more engaged staff. As long as there is time for teams to get together for key meetings and to collaborate and results are being produced, trust your employees to get the job done on their terms.

Downsizing of office space

With less people working in your office (see above), and technology making your office paperless with servers in the cloud, why have the extra expense of an under-utilised office space? As long as you have the set up that your team needs for working in common spaces or for meetings, smaller office space makes sense from a cost and a collaboration point of view. Small spaces don’t have to be cluttered or claustrophobic. Within small spaces you can get creative by incorporating flexible multi-purpose zones with furniture, and add interest with plants, textures and colour.

Communal areas to encourage discussion

Covid might have taught us to keep our distance, although with many people still working from home, we see an effect on the ease of communication we previously had. Communal spaces allow organic knowledge transfer between people. Effective communal spaces including break-out areas and other designated zones, help reduce barriers for collaboration with fellow colleagues. Placing complementary disciplines within close proximity - such as Sales and Marketing teams may also encourage more organic knowledge flow. The use of designated project spaces for multidisciplinary teams has been demonstrated to improve productivity, so invest in areas that are comfortable and homely, and encourage teams to get together for discussion.

A greater emphasis on wellness

Recognising that our collective physical and mental well-being was being tested during the recent crisis, many companies have worked to increase wellness offerings. They’re highlighting existing benefits that may have been overlooked, investing in new programs, and communicating consistently about them. Helping staff to live a healthy lifestyle is always a wise investment. This elevated investment in wellness resources can help as we transition back to our regular routines and beyond. More organisations are supportive of fitness areas, flexible hours to spend time with family and healthy eating programs like a fruit bowl in the office. And from a personal level, encouraging colleagues to utilise wellness offerings creates better all-round workplace relationships with your co-workers.

Workplace Health and Safety when the workplace is a home – who’s responsible?

It’s one thing to control a workspace and ensure it is set up with employee health and safety in mind. But what happens when half your workforce is set up at home? According to the Employment Relations Act 2000, provisions that address a flexible working regime have been put in place. However, an employer must still consider their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 if an employee regularly works from home. This includes a duty to ensure the employee’s safety so far as is reasonably practical. One of the things employers can do is to include guidelines in their policies on what health and safety obligations would be when working from home. This may include requirements around making sure a home workplace is comfortable and ergonomically sound, that regular breaks are taken, and that the space is free from hazards. There should also be a policy that deals with data security and systems in place to record remote working arrangements, issues or concerns.

Modern Office’s Juliet Scott has years of experience in designer office furniture fit-outs, and would love to discuss your next project with you. Whether it's some fresh new furniture pieces or a full transformation of your office space, contact Juliet to discuss your requirements.

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