As architectural studios and firms re-open after the lockdown, offices will inevitably have to be pandemic-proofed before employees can step in. Work patterns have to change and hygiene will become the foremost concern for employers. Apart from design solutions, studios and firms will also have to cater to the mental health of their workers. Office spaces must deliver a sense of safety and comfort to their employees. Along with the physical alterations that offices will have to go through, it is equally important that management and staff remember to support pandemic funds, make donations, and do their bit in supporting the health workers on the front-lines that make it remotely possible for us to think about getting back to work.
But of course, the biggest and most obvious transition will be shifting to a digital platform completely and while many may see this as a hindrance, this period will be the most authentic time to connect with your employees, show leadership, and navigate your team through a global pandemic with proactive solutions.
From vendor meetings, group events and site visits to travelling for work, everything has been on pause for weeks now. The key to successfully transition into a post-pandemic work environment is opening slowly, step-by-step. It is advisable to resume only absolute necessary functions.
Here are some guideline and tips to upgrade your post-pandemic work life for a more efficient and productive outcome –
1. Virtual workplaces
The world is shifting online and it’s time for architecture firms to do so as well. If they haven’t already, firms must start uploading their data to the cloud to make it accessible to all their employees. Companies should also prepare themselves to hold meetings via video-conferences and set up other channels of online communication. Management should assist their employees with software, equipment, and IT support.
2. Social distancing
The most essential change to be done is keeping the workstations separate while maintaining a sense of connection between the staff members. Partitions/panels can be used to create a barrier between the employees. Another method would be re-orienting the work stations such that employees are not face-to-face.
3. Flexible schedules
Create flexible working schedules, divide the work shifts, and maybe ask employees to come in on alternate days. Keeping the ‘Work from Home’ option still available for employees can be a big asset and ensure that all nonessential personnel stay safe at home.
4. Contact-less studios
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally, the need for contact-less and touch-free technology has also increased. A huge upgrade that offices all over the world will have to incorporate eventually is the need for automation. From automatic doors and windows, hands-free switches to voice-activated appliances, automation has to become a part of everyday life for a more sterile environment.
Maintaining hygiene is going to be a big part of coming back to work. Workstations, bathrooms, cafeterias, and all public spaces of the office must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Regular hand-washing must be encouraged especially while employees and staff enter the office. It would be considerate for employers to provide all bathrooms, desks, and public areas with sanitizers and wipes.
Some firms may want to re-design their spaces or make renovations to suit the social-distancing norms. While making these changes it is important to keep in mind the materials that you use. Using materials that can withstand heavy cleaning is most advisable. These can be stone, laminates, granite, corian slabs etc. Another tip would be to reduce fabric-based materials inside the office like carpets and heavy curtains that could potentially absorb germs.
7. Health care
Like airports, employers could adopt using thermometer guns to check temperatures for their employees and caretakers. Along with this, employers should keep cloth masks, sanitizers, gloves, and basic medicines available on their premises 24 x 7.
Food is a work essential of course. Just like flexible work schedules, cafeteria hours should be distributed and staggered for optimal safety. It is most advisable to encourage your employees to bring pre-packaged food/tiffins from home or get food delivered to the office. But in the off-chance that firms provide food services on campus, a minimum distance of six feet must be maintained between people in queues. Seating in the cafeterias must also be staggered and preferably with partitions between people.
The key to having a more efficient and productive work outcome is having happy and satisfied employees. Honest communication with your staff members about their health, both mental and physical, their concerns and issues will make your employees feel supported and safe. Finding proactive solutions to their concerns and fostering a feeling of community will give an optimistic outlook to employees, caretakers, and clients as well.
10. Mental health support
Last on the list but not the least, as these fine lines between work life and home life get blurred, it is of utmost importance that companies and firms cater to the mental health of their employees. Research on mental health resources and how to be an ally for your staff is essential. Our generation was never prepared for a pandemic and now that it’s here, a lot of us are undergoing stress and anxiety as things seem to be different from normal. Being there for your employees is the number one proactive measure you can take to get an efficient work output.
Work-life as we know it will completely change all over the world. Whatever we consider as ‘normal’ is about to be redefined, so now the big question is…
Are you and your firm prepared?