COVID-19 has changed the way we work for the foreseeable future. This pandemic has forced a temporary shift away from the physical office, but the need for collaboration and personal interaction has not gone away—people miss their incidental hallway interactions with coworkers and the connection that comes from being part of a physical team.
Others find that the office provides a clear delineation between work and home life. And while the traditional office was ready to be reimagined, COVID-19 forced us to accelerate how we think about optimized workplaces.
Some companies are slowly returning to the office. Others are allowing employees to work from home through the summer or the end of the year. Some are even opting for a hybrid version where employees can do both.
Regardless of which plan a company chooses, these decisions have created challenges and anxieties for both employers and employees. Business leaders have both the ability and the obligation to help their employees thrive in the “next normal,” whether those employees work in the office, at home, or both. This may sound obvious, but it’s to everyone’s advantage if employees are healthy and productive.
Here are some tips for how companies can create a safe, healthy, and productive culture as we navigate the next phase of the pandemic:
Implement Thermal Imaging Technology to Detect Body Temperature
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends daily temperature screenings as offices reopen. The technology now exists for companies to deploy a mobile, thermal imaging cart to quickly detect body temperature in spaces where groups of people gather, such as in an office lobby or a common area. Portable thermal imaging technology offers efficient temperature measurement wherever it’s needed to support efforts to maintain healthy workplaces and communities.
Another key benefit is peace of mind for employee and employer. Most would agree that having a reliable method of measuring body temperature for all workspace entrants is especially important when building confidence in a return to the office.
Create Flexible Workstations in the Physical Office
As we start going back to the physical workplace, companies need to think about how to reconfigure the office in a way that facilitates mask-wearing; increased sanitation; and, of course, social distancing.
A Prudential survey found that of the 2,000 full-time employees surveyed, 49% believe open offices and workspaces are no longer conducive to their health and wellness, and 66% believe their workspaces will need to be restructured to create more personal space. We believe this is a valid concern and needs to be taken seriously.
For example, implementing mobile desks is one easy, relatively low-cost way to enable employees to spread out and quickly form new configurations. Mobile desks allow teams to gather for a meeting while remaining safely apart, and they also allow an employee to move his or her desk to a quiet, sunny corner of the office to get some focused work done.
Additionally, as companies decrease the number of assigned workstations in favor of hoteling or touchdown spaces, height-adjustable furniture lets users adapt shared space for a personalized fit.
Offer a Stipend for Home Offices
Most employees who are not accustomed to working from home likely do not have a comfortable and ergonomic setup. Research shows long hours spent sitting can damage both physical and mental health, due in large part to the metabolic impact of not moving. Follow the likes of Google and Shopify, and offer employees a stipend to purchase what they need to create a productive home office space.
Embrace the ‘Digital Nomad’ Mentality
Being productive is not the same as spending time in the office. Flexible work environments give employees the freedom to work in a way that’s comfortable and customizable so they can be productive.
Remote work has become the new norm, albeit temporarily. This pandemic has shown us that companies must always be “remote ready” going forward for both adaptability and mobility and should give their employees the capability to work from anywhere when necessary.
Encourage Employees to Get Up and Move
Because people are no longer commuting to the office, many are working longer now than before. A study by NordVPN found that respondents reported being online working for 2–3 more hours per day during quarantine than they were prior. Those who are still social distancing and working from home are often tethered to their offices longer than intended.
Burned-out employees cannot be efficient and productive. Employers should urge employees to focus on well-being by encouraging them to take breaks throughout the day, get up and move, and get fresh air. Productivity can also get a boost by sitting less and standing more.
Our next normal is still relatively unknown—it’s hard for anyone to predict how COVID-19 may continue to reshape how we work and live. Remote work has been successful thus far, but many employees are hungry for the interpersonal connections that are created in the office environment.
And because working from home may not be ideal exclusively or in all situations, it’s time for organizations to find the sweet spot in returning to work that works for both their business and their employees.
Chad Severson is the CEO of Ergotron. Severson joined Ergotron in 2019 and was eager to lead an organization with an important mission centered on wellness and productivity. With key professional values of building trust, focusing on the end customer, and fostering continuous improvement, Severson is well-positioned to drive a strategy of innovation and growth at Ergotron.