5 Ways Your Post-Pandemic Office Environment Will Be Different

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: May 26, 2020

As the country begins to emerge from quarantine, social distancing and sheltering in place, many employers are facing the challenge of reorganizing offices to maintain the health and safety of their employees. Whether you are about to return or still have some time before re-entering the workplace; there are sure to be a lot of questions of what the new experience will be.
  1. Socially-distanced workspaces.
    Within the last few decades, many office environments traded in cubicle setups for open floor plans, which encouraged interaction and collaboration amongst coworkers. But in the aftermath of the coronavirus, physical separation will likely be enforced. To maintain the suggested 6 feet social distancing, some offices are installing colored carpet systems to guide employees to navigate safely. Others are investing in plexiglass barriers to prevent the transmission of moisture droplets from one employee to another. And in addition to physical redesign, it’s also likely that offices will operate with a portion of employees working from home for the foreseeable future, or on a staggered schedule to minimize the number of people in the office at one time.
  2. Sanitization measures.
    While cleaning crews will likely be visiting corporate office environments more frequently than you may be used to, we also foresee hand sanitizer stations and disinfecting wipes becoming a part of the new age of office décor. Employees will likely be responsible for keeping their own workspaces sanitary, with a joint (but socially distanced) commitment to the shared office spaces. Conference rooms may be outfitted with signs, stickers or light switches to indicate if the environment has been sanitized after use, creating a visual cue that it is safe to use.
  3. Fewer people.
    Prior to the onset of the pandemic, remote working held a more negative stigma of being less productive than working within an office environment. However, with the majority of the U.S. being forced to adapt over the past several months, many previously apprehensive employers are likely to incorporate working from home into their office structure at least part of the time. Fewer people in a contained space will lower the risk of infection and slow the spread of the virus should it infiltrate the onslaught of new safety measures your office is likely to adopt. For employers, there are also potential benefits to encouraging employees to work from home, where needing less office space can lower financial responsibilities in a time so many companies are struggling.
  4. Increases in technology.
    While taking doors off of their hinges and installing one-way traffic systems for navigation are two helpful ways to mitigate shared surface contamination, companies all over the world are working quickly to develop new tools to make office environments safer through technology. Thermal temperature scanners, remote control or key fob entry, and air filtration systems that omit sanitizing UV rays after everyone’s gone home for the night, are a few examples of post-pandemic innovation you may see in your new office environment. To protect their employees further, several companies are adding Bluetooth or WiFi driven contact tracing apps to their repertoire of digital tools to indicate to coworkers if they may be at risk.
  5. No more communal kitchens.
    In-office kitchens have become the new water coolers of the last decade, offering an in-office space to take a break and catch up with coworkers. But in the aftermath of COVID-19, we suspect that communal coffee pots, home-baked goods generously brought in by coworkers, and shared seating areas to enjoy your lunch, will be things of the past. We suspect that kitchen areas will be treated much like conference rooms, where you’ll be able to book a time slot for use and will be required to sanitize once complete.

As most Americans have not entered an office environment in more than two months, returning to a traditional workspace is likely to be a bit of an adjustment, particularly with all of the imminent changes. Without a vaccine or ambulatory treatments of COVID-19 infections, separation and protective barriers continue to be the solution to a healthy workforce. Health and safety measures are likely to be integrated into the workspace to create an expected standard of practice, one that will help to keep you healthy and safe as life begins to return to some semblance of what we once knew.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.