For those of you who pre-COVID-19 worked in an office and have been working from your dining rooms, comfortable chair in the living room, home office, deck, or the kitchen counter, plans likely are underway to begin the process of returning to work. But what does that really mean? Who will return and when is still up in the air for most of us. And, the reality is, returning to work will look very different. So, what can we expect?
For many of us, returning to work likely will not mean back to normal – physically back in the office Monday through Friday. We may work virtually 60% of time, being in our physical offices 40% or less.
It is very likely that when in any kind of public space, the hallways, restrooms, kitchen, etc., we will be required to wear a mask. This will include while at desks that sit in open areas.
Facilities teams across this country are laying out plans for how people will move within buildings. You may be able to enter through only one door and exit another. Elevators will likely only allow one or two people in them at a time, which means, you need to plan on a longer commute time.
Social Distancing: It is likely you will still be required to practice some form of physical distancing from your colleagues and clients.
Zoom was novel for some in March and early April, but many have developed Zoom fatigue from overZooming. Even when workers physically return to the office, videoconferencing will still be a preferred method of communication based on a variety of reasons – time to travel, fears of catching the virus, avoiding elevators, lack of parking, avoiding public transportation, etc.
Communication is Still Key
Assuming you will not have your entire team face-to-face on a daily basis, you will still need to maintain strong communication ties with your team. Keep meeting virtually on a weekly basis. Keep up your weekly one-on-one meetings as well. You want to ensure that nothing and no one falls through cracks that will likely exist.
Be prepared for continued change. Over the past several months, many companies realized they can operate effectively with a large – very large – percentage of the workforce doing so remotely. Companies may consolidate space, which means, you may no longer have an actual office. Personnel may get shift around as will some responsibilities. This is an important time to be flexible and willing to adapt.
The best advice I can offer is to be patient, flexible and adaptable as return to work plans begin to surface. Working remotely will definitely continue – we just don’t know to what extent. Be positive and open with leadership and those who report to you. And look for the silver linings in whatever approach your company chooses. For example, working from home three days a week, may give you more time with your family or your dog. Conversely, going into the office a couple of days a week may give you the change of scenery you need as well as give you the opportunity to engage with colleagues. There is no returning to “normal,” our new normal will look different.
Stay safe and healthy,
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies