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What does a COVID-normal office look like?

28 October 2021 at 3:32 pm
Maggie Coggan
We speak to the experts on the future of the office 

Maggie Coggan | 28 October 2021 at 3:32 pm


What does a COVID-normal office look like?
28 October 2021 at 3:32 pm

We speak to the experts on the future of the office 

With the eastern-states slowly emerging out of lockdown, it’s likely more workers will start heading back to the office. 

But after nearly two years of intermittent lockdowns and disrupted work, there’s a big possibility that the offices and work schedules we had pre-pandemic are a thing of the past. 

So what exactly does a COVID-normal office look like? 

We sat down with Sue Williamson, the lead author of a report looking into the future of work post-pandemic, to find out. 

What will a return to the office look like post-COVID?

Workplaces are undergoing a transformation at the moment that will take a couple of years to play out. But we know that the future of work is hybrid. People really do want to keep working from home. They don’t want to spend the whole week at home because it is too isolating, but they want to work hybridly.

What kind of difference will this make to the way we work and the culture of workplaces?

So some of the research coming out says that offices will still be important, but their functions may change. Employees will go into the office a couple of days a week, or even one or two times a month. We’re more likely to see offices develop into shared collaborative spaces to foster creativity, networking and engagement amongst employees, rather than everyone just sitting at their desk. 

Having people working from home regularly will change team dynamics. Organisations are thinking about working synchronously and asynchronously – what can be done online in real time, and what tasks can be done at a different time in a virtual environment. They’re starting to experiment with different platforms that allow collaboration in different times, so people can work at a time and a place that suits them. And we’re starting to see this because employees are moving around, moving to the regions and the coastal areas. That’s having an impact on how employees work together, what technology they use and the physical workspaces that they meet in.

From a management perspective, what needs to change in order to ensure teams still work together well? 

Keeping team cohesion can be a challenge. Research shows that one of the things that people miss most about working from home is the networking and the catching up over cups of tea. So managers need to replicate that. They have been doing this during the pandemic via virtual hangouts, but we’re all really over Zoom, so managers will need to work out ways that they can still connect with employees and keep that team bonding going through having virtual catch ups as well as physical. 

They also need to be mindful of workplace health and safety issues, particularly isolation and stress from working longer and more intense hours which can occur when employees work from home. They also need to talk to employees as organisations are transitioning back into their workplace about how many days they want to be in the office. [Maybe] managers have a roster system where some people come in for certain days, hours of the week or whatever so that not everyone is there at the same time if social distancing is needed. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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