A ‘New Normal’ is Coming to the Workplace After COVID-19

Whether you’re still working your pre-pandemic job or are contemplating what job you’ll be able to find once this crisis subsides, you (like everyone) are likely looking forward to the day that business gets back to normal. But that “normal” almost assuredly will be very different than it was before the virus hit.

I reached out to ask a few industry pros to share their predictions about what the workplace of the not-so-distant future will be like. Here are a few of the things they’re seeing in their crystal balls:

–There will be a balance between virtual and in-office work schedules.

“Studies show that productivity is maximized at three days in the office and two days remote,” reports Julie Kratz, TEDx speaker, executive coach, and founder and CEO of Next Pivot Point. “For those having successfully completed their jobs remotely, they will question why that will not be able to continue going forward.”

But many will relish the chance to head back to an office, adds Tina Urquhart, CEO of Charm City Concierge. “People have been cooped up in their homes, so a change of scenery and coworkers to talk to will go a long way,” says Urquhart, who also predicts that virtual offerings will be the new office amenity.

“Zoom meetings will not go away and other virtual offerings will be incorporated into the workplace — meditations, online fitness instruction and even online mixology classes will be the expectation,” she says. “Companies that can offer new and different will be the next leaders in workplace experience.”

But even in-office experiences likely will change, says Miriam Spinner, career coach, Spinner Coaching. “There will be fewer people. Your workgroups will rotate between the office and telework. Instead of taking the elevator crowded with people, how about the stairs? At your large conference meeting, you will see empty chairs, and even fewer of them. You [will be] excited to see your co-workers, but there will be a distance to maintain.”

–Flexible work schedules will be more attractive.

“Assuming that people enjoyed the extra family time with COVID-19, they will want more time to be with their families post-COVID-19,” Kratz says. “Having a flexible work arrangement outside of 9 to 5 will be a differentiator.”

Policy changes will hit your workplace — no matter where that may be. Spinner says everyone should get ready for new hygiene, virus containment, hazardous pay, contingency and telework policies. “There will be so many policy changes that you might be confused at first since your CEO will be on communication overdrive,” she says. “But no worries — you are in good company since the change will be implemented across all industries. The good news is that over time it will become clearer, and you will feel more comfortable with the new normal. In fact, you might like it!”

–Employees will become more purpose-driven.

As Kratz notes, life in the time of coronavirus has led to a lot of self-reflection, “which generally comes awakening of a deeper purpose.

“People will question the purpose in their jobs if it is absent,” she says. “Having honest one-on-one conversations with employees as they return to work and aligning roles that best fit them and the company’s needs will be important.”

–Mental health and well-being will be a priority.

“With 1 in 5 battling mental health issues before COVID-19 at some point, that number has been estimated to increase by 5x following COVID-19,” Kratz says. “Employee assistance programs are not enough. This is not just the job of HR either. This requires empathy of leadership. Managers will need to pivot to be more inclusive as leaders.”

–There will be adaptations to the physical workspace.

This will depend on where you work, of course. But Spinner sees doors that will automatically open after your ID is validated, fewer light switches, and voice technology in place of buttons on copy machines. “There will be dividers and more open spaces in your office area. Heat sensors will be added to the array of screening devices for higher risk areas. And at eateries, or in your cafeteria, the distance will be encouraged through markers on the floor, and dividers on the tables,” Spinner predicts.

Which of these predictions will come to pass? Only time will tell. Once business resumes, let me know how your workplace has changed, and I will report on the ones that have become realities!

(Article written by Kathleen Furore)