20 . Jul . 2020
Summary – COVID-19 has dramatically changed how we perceive the workplace. Now that people had to work from home due to the lockdowns, we’ve learned that many jobs that business owners originally thought couldn’t be done from home, actually could be.
For many workers it is an opportunity to see what working from home would be like and to test how it would influence their well-being and productivity. For some it was better, for others it was worse. Some now feel that mixing their working week, e.g 2 days at home, 3 days at an office or coworking space, is the right solution.
For business owners and coworking spaces, it has made them rethink what a safe and productive office environment actually looks like. For example, open plan seating is often praised for its ability to facilitate collaboration, but this might be the first time we’ve associated it with its potential to spread viruses.
This doesn’t necessarily mean working spaces need to change, it’s about businesses being able to adapt physically as well as digitally to anything unexpected. And the more options they’re aware of, the more adaptable they are.
Therefore we must ask the question, what will workspaces look like after COVID-19? Or in other words, what will become the new norm?
Seating plans need to be able to adhere to social distancing. Many businesses in countries that are in a relaxed state of lockdown are currently doing this. They have quickly changed their seating plan, so that employees are kept 2 metres apart. However, they haven’t had much time, the real question is to analyse not only where employees sit, but how they interact throughout the day, how they use meeting rooms, how long meetings are scheduled for and how long these meetings actually are.
This isn’t to overtly pry into the movements of employees, but to see how businesses can set up their workplace and work schedule to adhere to social distancing standards while minimizing necessary interaction. It’s also good to see if social distancing is possible. If your workplace was already at max capacity, then the only way to adequately set up social distancing may be by having a portion of employees work from home, and others in the office.
A common tactic we see at the moment is for businesses to place markings on the floor. That way people can clearly see when they’re abiding or breaching.
Distancing comes with the challenge of communication. Communicating virtually has always had the problem of being less persuasive and more tiring, as extra effort is needed to compensate for the fact that we’re missing facial and body expression. Applications like Zoom have helped lessen the discrepancies between virtual and physical meetings, however we must also consider that some people are simply more confident when talking in-person rather than virtually.
One glaringly obvious change from COVID-19 was the need for sanitization, no sink or desk is to be uncared for. We also realised that some hand sanitizers are better than others, we need sanitizers that are 90% alcohol. Sure, they won’t make your hands smell like fruit, but they will greatly reduce the chances of employees or coworking members becoming sick. A big part of the responsibility is on the employees to change their behaviour.
The second change is for the quality of air filtration systems to improve. Air that is confined will become stagnant and more likely to spread any airborne virus, allergen or bacteria, in other words, open the windows if you can.
The final change which a lot of us are currently dealing with is how we interact physically with one another. Handshakes can become frowned upon and currently we are considering alternatives such as namaste, or perhaps thinking of the only greeting needed as being verbal. The point is, some ways of interaction that were previously associated with respect, can now be seen as a disregard for the health of fellow colleagues or coworking members.
As many have discovered, flexibility in the way they work can actually increase how productive they are. This is not only discussing flexibility in where one is physically working, meaning people may begin to work 3 days remotely, and 2 days from a coworking space, or any variation of that.
This also refers to the way we work, and becoming more critical of what face-to-face interaction is actually necessary. Who really needs to attend that meeting? Is that meeting itself better suited to an email? Does that meeting need to be in person? Think of a meeting where there are 6 people in a room all looking at a projector. Unless it is vital for the person presenting the meeting to provide physical guidance alongside the projection, that meeting may have been more effective by sharing one screen virtually.
When it comes to flexibility, coworking spaces are ahead of the curve. That is one of the big positives about coworking spaces post-COVID compared to traditional office spaces. Coworking space allows each member multiple choices over the desk they use. Each coworking member gets to choose a space that best suits the need of their business, whether it’s the complete privacy of an office, multi seat offices for a startup that wants to keep a distance from each other, or an individual who wants a socially distanced hotdesk. Of course, all different types of coworking facilities need to be regularly sanitised, especially hotdesks and cubicles.
One of the big things businesses lose from working either completely from home or split up between working from home and a traditional office space is a sense of comradery. When employees feel they are mutually progressing and reaching common goals.
Coworking spaces also provide relief from a relevant phenomenon called ‘job creep.’ Job creep is currently affecting many who are forced to work from home due to COVID-19. Job creep essentially means one is where an individual needs to or is engaging in work related activities beyond normal working hours. It occurs when working from home due to one’s working environment being the same as one’s leisure environment, leading to the feeling that one is always ‘at work’. This is one thing both a coworking space and a traditional office space have over working from home, there is a physical release when you leave those spaces, making it easier to relax and enjoy your own time. If you’re lucky enough to have your own study room at home, that’s recommended, but this isn’t very common.
Right now, many people are experiencing job creep for the first time, or more intensely than before, and they are discovering whether working from home truly suits them. Coworking in a post-covid world will prove a solution to many people who have now tried working from home, discovered that they need something more flexible than a traditional office space, yet something more spacious and freeing than working from home.
In a post-COVID world, office spaces can remain the same, but the way we move, operate and place ourselves within them will change. All coworking spaces have a responsibility to provide adequate sanitation and ventilation to their coworking members—Zioks will do just that. If you’re looking for a flexible and safe business centre in Kolkata post COVID-19, Zioks is your place.