Disinfectants will be available in entrance halls, toilets and stores. In some cases, standard temperature checks and wearing masks will become the norm. In the office, surfaces, handles, bathrooms and areas of frequent contact on chairs and sofas will be cleaned regularly. Rituals such as handshakes, friendly hugs or welcome kisses are no longer be accepted. Moreover, going to work while you are ill is unacceptable. Nonetheless, working from home every day cannot become the norm; human contact is hard to resist.
What will be the impact of the sudden change in the workplace by COVID-19? Due to the virus, it is necessary to regulate physical office contact as much as possible and take measures in the design of workstations. Employees will feel safer while working if they are protected through adjustments of the work floor. These modifications should prevent further spread of the virus, but avoid creating a barrier in the workplace and workflow.
Examples of changes may include internal flows and transit zones that need to be modified to provide enough distance on the work floor. The occupancy of office spaces must also be reduced, for example, by introducing work from home. If working individually is not feasible, physical teams of 2 to 3 employees could be formed. Moreover, the distance between two employees on the work floor should always be 1.5 meters. Where possible, screens and room dividers could be used to ensure the distance.
"The expectation is that we will have to keep this up for a long time to come, whether this will have a stimulating effect on the work atmosphere is a question. The screens and mandatory walking routes provide a distant way of working. The atmosphere in an office changes from inviting to grey. The 'homemade' screens and distance solutions will ruin a pleasant working atmosphere. As a student architect, I wouldn't be happy about this, and my preference will lie with working from home".
The creation of this new work-life balance is crucial for the changed standard of living. Many companies, teams and employees have been forced to work remotely in recent months. This involuntary experiment showed that through technical solutions, it is still possible to work productively in teams and alone. Working from home creates a culture where monitoring productivity is accepted, and if there is a lack of productivity, it will become more transparent to the company. A significant side-effect of this is that employers no longer have an excuse for not letting employees work from home. Most employees have experienced the quality of a work-life without commuting and with more time for loved ones. However, employees long for social contact, for example, a chat on the shop floor.
"This social chat is one of the factors why people around me crave to go back to the faculty. Social contact has never been more important. There are an awful lot of people whose only option is to go to the supermarket. Of course, this is not enough for people. By nature, social contact plays an important role in a person's well-being. I am now referring to the rules/agreements that are made. We have to think about this social necessity".
Working from a distance has a direct impact on the new balance. Working from home can reduce density in an office, but also creates the need for more interruptions during homeworking and distractions from private life. In addition to an office to which one can go as a break during the working week, it is also essential that a home office can be present. Assigning a place in the home with the right physical necessities, such as an ergonomic office chair, can ensure that an appropriate distance is created between work and private life.
"Walking in the open air before work can already create a distance between when work starts and when private life ends. But it has become clear that not everyone can make time for this kind of rituals to start the day. Or that it might not be possible at all. The employer can play a role, especially since effectiveness at home is now just as important as in the office. The right supplies and suitable spaces must be available to everyone. It should be possible to indicate that one decides to work from home or to rent a flexible workplace. Such a flexible workplace could be a solution for employees who are not able to work from home. Besides, a flexible workplace is automatically equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies. For employers, it is a development that offers a solution for both parties."
For some employees, this time will be remembered as one of fear of failing relationships, financial crises, or loss of loved ones. Even for those spared from such suffering, the collective trauma may lead them to radically rethink how they want to live and work in the future. Some will crave conventional choices, such as regular employment in a formal workplace. Another group will be attracted to riskier options that offer more independence and personal freedom. Employers will have to face challenges and encourage change positively. Whatever the outcome of this crisis, our ways of working, like many other elements of our lives, will never be the same again.