With many workers switching to working from home, what lies ahead and should we get over our fear of returning to life after COVID-19?
No matter where you are in the world, chances are you’ll be having to adapt your life around COVID-19. Lockdowns may differ, but we’re all having to adhere to certain guidelines, with governments thinking what’s best for us and our businesses.
In the UK, we’ve seen a very slow return to the workplace, and in particular, offices, compared to other European countries. The anxiety that many have of contracting COVID-19 has certainly played a part in people not jumping eagerly back into the workplace, as well as mixed messaging and constant changes to lockdown restrictions.
However, not all share this feeling and there is a growing fatigue amongst the population to carry on and get back to some normality. Not only this, many are concerned about the growing adverse effects on mental health.
Dr Hans Kluge, the Europe chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) echoes this and has encouraged workers to get out, have fun and return to offices. Whilst he respects social distancing, he fears the consequences of continuous physical distancing may be too much to bear, he says: “People’s mental health on occasions has become disastrous, so we cannot just continue the status quo. We have to open up, but we have to do it in a targeted, tailored way, and it’s possible.”
Kluge makes a serious point. We do have to be careful of the unintentional devastating effects on people’s mental health, as well as businesses, from our government’s up-and-down lockdowns and tier systems. But, as long as business owners prioritise safety and wellbeing, there’s no reason why people should be afraid to get back to their workplace.
Many business owners are keen advocates for workers to return to the office safely, valuing face-to-face interactions highly. Whilst some may be able to work from home, this can invite procrastination and lower productivity levels. Working in an office allows people to socialise and with many great office perks, people’s mental health can improve drastically.
Of course, we should be more cautious, but business owners are stepping up to make offices safer, as well as there being great guides to effective social distancing in workplaces – the information is out there! So, if you have the right set-up, and follow guidelines (like wearing face coverings if social distancing is hard), people can get back and get stuck in – helping each other, as well as businesses to continue thriving.
So, how can business owners best prepare for people getting back to the office post-COVID-19?
There is a range of ways to help make businesses more COVID-secure. It all starts with effective social distancing measures with clear signs and seats marked off-limits. Breakout areas can be implemented with protective screens placed on desks. Disposable masks and hand sanitisers placed around the office are a good idea, especially if anyone forgets a face covering, or if you have visitors.
Added together, these measures build a safer working environment in a post-COVID climate. Workers should be able to rely on employers setting up a more hygienic workplace. Screens, hand gels and effective, updated COVID-19 and social distancing policies will all work together to form a better and safer office set-up in life after COVID-19.
If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that we should all be thinking more about contingencies and how better we can be at preparing for them. But we should also be weighing up the effects that lockdowns have on societies. We’re all having to adjust, and we need to be constantly prepared for how workplaces may need to change, so we can help people get back into the office safely and get back to working more socially and efficiently.