26 May, 2020

What to expect from the office post-lockdown

By: Cesilia Faustina

As more and more countries are easing their coronavirus lockdown, we are witnessing increasing number of offices opening again. Some implementing full precautionary work-from-office days, while others are still being extra careful by limiting the number of office days for employees. Either way, businesses are trying to get back to the office routine, however, this is easier said than done.

We surely cannot expect everyone to simply go back to their past lives right away, not only will it take time again, but coronavirus is still on the loose and companies still need to take precautionary actions.

Experts stated their concerns about how workplace dynamics will be transformed once people are back at the office. “The office will not go away, but the need of the office space may reduce,” director and head of workplace delivery for Asia Pacific at Cushman & Wakefield Carol Wong stated.

Albert De Plazaola, global strategy director at design firm Unispace says “We're now hyperaware of health risks, whether real or imagined. And employers are hypersensitive about the potential for liability if people get sick at work.” With more offices opening, experts believe there needs to be basic measures to try to ease the people in, from reducing fear of the workplace to increasing hygiene strategies.

Many people don’t know what to expect coming back into the office and fear and paranoia may be very prominent still, which is why creating a safe and comfortable workspace is very important for this transition phase. WHO itself has prepared a guide for businesses to get their workplaces ready.

Source: WHO

As important as it is for the workplace to get things prepared, employees also need to be aware of what to expect coming back to the office. Whether you feel anxious, excited or like you’re coming back from a long vacation, preparing yourself mentally or in any way possible is always a good idea. So here are some tips to remember.

Be aware of the rules

Each country and government bodies I am sure have their own rules and regulations for opening up offices again, so knowing what they are is very important to keep the peace and containing the outbreak. It may be great to hear that there are less cases in your countries or areas, but we still need to remember that these number can change in a second, and it is still very important to follow safety procedures to keep these numbers down.

So, you need to make yourself aware of any rules from the government and your office, whether they were distributed from your HR or from your local coronavirus information platform, do try to read about the situation beforehand and what you would need to prepare coming into the office; for example, the need to wear masks and wear gloves in the office, follow any curfew guidelines, keep a safe distance from your co-workers and more, as surely your government bodies will be distributing guidelines for the workplace.

Take precaution and wear a mask

Your offices most likely will tell you to come in with a mandatory need to wear a mask. It is still risky times right now and wearing a mask can be the difference between life and death these days, so even though you are allowed to come into the office, make sure to continue wearing a mask when you’re out in public, whether you are in the office or not, as well as follow WHO’s guide on any prevention measures.

Fear and stigma

It is likely coming back to work you will be faced with many people that are still paranoid, as well as have certain social stigma towards people who may/may not be showcasing symptoms related to COVID-19 – if you yourself don’t feel the same way. You may find it hard to be at a close distance to somebody or the need to use hand sanitizer once you are near someone. These feelings are normal, but it is important to remember that we are going through this together, and everyone is just trying to stay safe here. There is no need to go over the top when you’re around people, the important things is to maintain your own hygiene and health, as well as follow the precautionary measures to stay safe, like keeping a safe distance and wearing a mask, if you do that, you should be perfectly fine to work in the vicinity with other people.

A change of routine

Obviously, things are not going to go back to normal right away. You will probably experience a bit of uncomfortableness being back, but again, it is important to remember that this is normal. We will probably feel a bit weird having to do assignments from the confines of the office and having direct communication with people again but try to think of it as a new and exciting atmosphere – I mean you were just locked in your homes for months.

Be grateful to be able to have the opportunity to see your friends and co-workers again and think of it on a positive note. At the same time, do learn to be more flexible of your situation. Seeing how these are uncertain times, you should also mentally prepare for any developing changes, like having to work from home again or having mixed days of working from home and from the office. You may also need to relearn new methods of finishing your work, seeing how it may be different from when you were working remotely and from the office. It is important to prepare mentally for any possibilities.

Accepting uncertainty

With uncertainty on the rise, we need to be patient and accepting of this whole situation. We may feel uneasy since the start of this pandemic, and this will most likely continue after businesses start opening up again. That said, we shouldn’t panic, we need to adapt and be ready for whatever comes our way, so yes, think positive but don’t get overconfident. We are still facing this journey together and being patient is the key.

So, whether your offices started opening already, not yet open or have unclear workdays, just remember that we are facing this together and we should always stay patient for the next chapter ahead.

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