Make no mistake, the world of work will never be similar again. Just as 9/11 changed how the world travels, the COVID -19 pandemic will change how we work. These changes will extend to how individuals commute, enter workplaces, manage tasks, interact with others, and more. In a post-pandemic world, work must be safe as well as clean and assured. We’ve identified 6 broad topics that organizations will require to address as they re-open for business, ranging from how we define clean to the nature of work and the supporting logistics.
Clean and Assured
After 9/11, the public required assurance that air travel was secure and safe. A new level of screening has impacted every traveler as well as the airport employee. Similarly, post-pandemic, employers will require to assure that workplaces are assured and clean. Even if the population gets herd immunity from COVID-19, people will expect facilities for maintaining high standards. To start, firms will require to adopt rigorous cleaning procedures for employees and customers. In response to COVID-19, the CDC has promulgated recommendations for how cleaning should be done. These procedures will require to be transparent to all parties. This can take the form of certification, like the safety inspection notices posted in elevators, or a review, like a health department posting in a restaurant. As with other safety items, these practices will require to be audited.
In the longer term, it’s reasonable to assume that regulators will redefine min cleanliness standards for things ranging from disinfection processes to employee hygiene. Additionally, employee adherence to stricter sanitary practices will require to have clearly defined behaviors. These can range from something as easy as hand washing instructions to complex cleaning techniques for specific machines, industries, or processes. Leaders will require to reinforce behaviors and make sure there’s the transparency of situations and actions, as in the same leadership methods within health and safety. This means cleanliness conversations and ratings. They will require to define and distribute new cleanliness metrics, as well as sharing firm performance with employees. Furthermore, supervisors will require to implement a host of new standards, which will need them to develop a new set of skills around the management of cleaning, inspection, and disinfection.
We can also expect to see raised use of personal protective equipment (PPE), involving expanded use of gloves and face masks, becoming the norm in many clients-facing environments. Procedures for inbound and outbound materials will also require to change. Much like hazard analysis of critical control points (HACCP), exposures to viruses must be minimized across the supply chain. This can mean minimizing touchpoints, creating disinfection protocols, and diversifying sourcing. These procedures will require to be communicated and defined, with expectations established for employee accountability. Facility upgrades will also require evaluation, from better HVAC and air filtration to protective compartments for workers.
Before returning to work, we can expect some form of regulatory guidance or scrutiny on which industries can begin to gear up and in which geographies. State, Federal, and local governments will likely play roles in making these determinations. This can be done on a county-by-county assessment of risk as well as prioritization of industry types. An orderly and risk-based return to work will tread new ground in terms of legal problems, medical counsel, and privacy, particularly if individuals return to work based upon virus exposure, vaccination, or immunity.
Once at work, it’s reasonable to assume that employees will be regularly tested and screened for COVID-19 symptoms, which will likely increase both privacy and employment law problems. How to implement expanded screening and testing will be determined later. Firms will require to create isolation rooms for employees who experience symptoms while at work, and quarantine policies will be a necessity.
In the short term, visitors and employees can expect increasingly invasive forms of health monitoring. It’s simple to imagine some of these changes become part of how we operate in the longer term. Examples of changes will involve active monitoring of symptoms and health, from screening for viruses to temperature monitoring. These changes will alter the concepts of privacy in ways we’ve not anticipated. If we look to Asia as a post-COVID-19 model, employees globally will likely begin to be classified based on health standards. For instance, a green code on an electronic device or wristband can signal COVID-19 vaccination or immunity and allow employees access to transport, commerce, and employment.
The days of shared office equipment and close quarters for seating are likely at the end of the line. Shared equipment is a source of shared germs. This involves computers, PDAs, printers, and phones. Furthermore, thought requires to be given to non-touch control systems for other shared fixed equipment like doors and elevators particularly fire and other egress doors. Close quarters encourage the spread of the virus through exposure to infectious particles.
Technology has enabled several businesses to function as normal during the pandemic. We can expect that the remote working option will grow in popularity, meaning some of the workforces will make working from house permanent. In other places, we can see an acceleration of job automation, especially for routine transactions and point-of-sale work. Where employees continue to work in office environments, there’re likely to be fundamental design changes to accommodate for social distancing. This means a shift away from shared space and open space offices. Travel will decrease significantly, as employers integrate virtual technologies into business as typical. Where travel alternatives aren’t feasible, firms will require to make risk-based decisions on what travel facilities and modes are acceptable. Expect to see changes in commuting, car-pooling, and ride-sharing, driven by a wish for improved separation and lower density transport options.
To make sure that critical infrastructure and essential functions are maintained, organizations will increasingly rely upon employee sequestering, or housing employees near facilities and isolated from the population at large. This will need training, planning, and practice to accomplish. This’s of particular focus for utilities, energy providers, and manufacturing.
Fundamental Shifts Ahead
As the world emerges from the current pandemic, the world of work will make a few fundamental shifts, shifts that address physical, biological, and emotional challenges. Just as we made changes post 9/11, we will adapt and respond to the challenges of pandemics. It will need thoughtfulness and planning. People will require to change their fundamental behaviors of how work gets done and how we keep our facilities clean and assured.