Pandemic proofing: 6 ways the office dynamic will change after lockdown

By July 17, 2020 The Office

After more than three months of lockdown, the world is finally starting to reopen. Shops are trading once again and people can finally get a haircut, next to return are the office workers. In many ways, the traditional office is going to undergo some of the most extreme changes. Business owners will have to find the perfect balance between allowing people to do their jobs efficiently, whilst keeping them safe and the surroundings clean.

Here’s six ways we at Diamond Interiors believe that the office dynamic will change after lockdown.

1. Hygiene and cleanliness a priority

Although they may not look it, offices are notoriously dirty places. Let’s take a look at some hard-hitting, and frankly quite frightening, facts about office cleanliness.

  • The average desk can harbour 400 times the bacteria of a toilet seat
  • 67% of people eat their lunch at their desk – or perhaps they’ll rethink it after the above stat
  • Your desk phone can carry an average of 25,127 germs per square inch
  • Only 46% of office workers sanitise their keyboard less than once a month
  • 80% of bugs and infections are spread through contaminated surfaces, not through coughs, sneezes or human contact like you would think

So with all of the above in mind, office hygiene will become a huge focus for everyone. Businesses will need to schedule regular professional cleaning to get down deep into places office workers just wouldn’t think of, but there needs to be some onus on the individual.

Providing ‘clean boxes’ could be one solution; each person gets a box of cleaning supplies including sprays, wipes and hand sanitiser, and it is their responsibility to keep their desk area clean throughout the day. This would mean cleaning at the start and end of the day, and in between too, especially if you are one for eating at your desk.

Businesses will also need to ensure that people are keeping communal areas clean before and after they use things. This will not only protect themselves, but also those around them. Take a read of our guide on how to improve and maintain your office hygiene.

2. Further apart

One of the biggest, and perhaps most difficult, parts of lockdown life has been social distancing. Keeping two metres apart from others, as necessary as it has been to slow the infection, has had an impact on most areas of our lives from heading to the shops to being around family members. But as the guidelines still recommend keeping a distance – now one metres plus when two metres is not possible – this will result in many offices becoming more spaced out than usual.

While you may be used to sitting opposite your desk mate or back-to-back with a team member, businesses will have to rejig the layouts of their offices in order to ensure proper social distancing can be maintained at all times. It’s time to get out that tape measure and make sure everyone can keep at least one metre, preferably two, from other people.

3. Missing faces

For three to four months now, many office workers have had to do their jobs from home. If your office is limited in space, then it may be that there are some people missing from your office when you start to head back in. Whether it’s because of space, lack of childcare or because some people just don’t feel comfortable, chances are a few of your employees or colleagues are going to be working from home.

4. Focus on employee wellbeing

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that no one is immune to mental health problems. Staring at the same four walls all day long, having to deal with homeschooling, worrying about making ends meet on furlough and, of course, the virus sweeping the planet, it’s no wonder that psychiatrists have expressed fears of a ‘tsunami’ of mental health problems after lockdown. We all need to ensure that mental issues are viewed and dealt with differently in all areas of life, and the workplace is not exempt from this.

Mental wellbeing needs to be a key focus for employers. Regardless of how we make our return to work, it needs to take centre stage to ensure everyone is supported and looked after as we find our feet in the new normal.

5. The return of the closed plan office?

The concept of an open plan office has sparked debates for years. Of course, like everything, open plan comes with its pros and cons, but could the post-lockdown workplace see a return to the closed plan style that has been left behind?

We believe that while businesses won’t go back to completely closed plan – where people sit in their own offices or cubicles from nine to five – but there will be a shift to a somewhat ‘semi-closed’ plan. With the installation of dividers and plastic screens, we will certainly appear to be much more separate from our colleagues than we once were. If this is the case, employers will have to work extra hard to ensure a divide between departments and people doesn’t surface down the line.

6. Less socialising

Are the days of clocking off early on a Friday to go to the pub together long gone? Chances are they may be. And it may also mean bidding goodbye to sharing food and in-office parties. Anything that involves close contact, sharing or places you’re not familiar with may be out the window as all of these risk spreading infection.

There’s no denying that offices are going to look different as we all return to work, but those changes don’t have to be bad or negative. The most important thing is that people are kept safe no matter what, and it’s up to employers to implement the right changes.