An expert predicts what the post-pandemic workplace will look like

Career coach Sarah Vermunt is here to tell us what to expect returning to the office post quarantine.

While office workers have been working from home for the past few months, many are now wondering what the return to the office will actually look like. Career coach Sarah Vermunt is here to tell us what to expect.

For many, remote work is here to stay
Many people are finding that morale and sense of connectivity is suffering. People are also struggling with boundaries around work and feel the need to always be “on” / available. This is not sustainable. Many companies will likely move to staggered “office day” shifts. Going into the office less – maybe just a day or two a week. This is more ideal. Now that working from home much of the time will become the norm for most, some adjustments definitely need to be made in order to continue in a sustainable way.

We’ll likely see more “hot desking”
Hot desking is when workstations are used by different people on different days depending on who is in office.You won’t have a designated workspace. No home base to keep your stuff.  The reason for this is due to an increased cleaning schedule. Spaced out, less overhead cost for companies that only have people coming in 1-2 days a week.No more tchotchkes or file cabinets. If you’re old school and like working with paper this will be a big adjustment because everything will be digital.

Physical adaptations vs. procedural adaptations for safety
Cash-strapped companies are not likely to invest in the big expense of scrapping open concepts to go back to private offices. Instead we’ll see “sneeze guard effect” — plexiglass like a sneeze guard between cubicles. Touchless elevators are another example of physical adaptation. Procedural adaptations mean new flow of where you can walk and stand, you’ll see one-way signage for foot traffic, “safe zone” circle in elevators, etc. Procedural adaptations are tricky because onus is on workers (your colleagues) to obey new rules of safety. I have a client who had to put a string across her cubicle so people don’t get too close.

Workplaces will feel colder, unfortunately.
Companies are doing what they can but all of this is negatively impacting workplace relationships and a sense of feeling connected and supported. It’s very hard to feel connected when physically isolated. Hiring via video chat is working but training and onboarding is more difficult now (harder to learn, can’t really get to know new colleagues). Our old forms of informal socialization are gone for now (lunch with colleagues) — and people say this matters more than they previously realized.