Back to Work – What Will Be the New Normal at Workplaces After COVID–19?

Published on 01 Jun, 2020

The pandemic led to months of lockdown, restrictions on movement, and sealing of borders, pushing the global economy to the verge of collapse. Now, workplaces and offices are reopening. However, safety rules and regulations will need to be incorporated to ensure there is no resurgence. What lies ahead is a ‘new normal’, which we must accept and adapt to.

With the new decade, came COVID-19, a deadly virus originating in China. Highly contagious, it soon spread globally. With the disease claiming lives and taking one nation after another in its grip, governments resorted to country-wide lockdowns and sealed international borders in their bid to contain it. Offices were closed and companies switched to ‘work from home’ to ensure continuity of business.

With almost the first half of 2020 behind us, recovery has started, and workplaces are reopening. However, the fear of the virus looms large, especially in the absence of a vaccine against it, compelling companies and people to be cautious. Moreover, with the economy coming to a near-standstill amid restrictions on movement of people and goods, several factories have shut down and companies have been forced to downsize employees. The fear of layoff has sent morale down to an all-time low. With recessionary conditions in markets, demand for goods and services is low, resulting in loss of revenues for companies.

The coming months will be difficult for many companies as they struggle to survive and retain talent. They need to work on multiple fronts to tide over these tough times and move ahead. Companies will have to adapt to the new way of operating to survive and thrive.

Safety Measures
Given the significance of ensuring safety of health as workplaces resume operations, routine hygiene practices, such as social distancing, disinfecting premises and monitoring visitors, will need to be followed strictly.

Office architecture may also undergo a change. For instance, automatic doors or voice-controlled elevator systems could be installed for minimizing contact.

Health checkup of employees before they resume work is also recommended. While in the current scenario, this could help in containing the infection, in the long term, periodic health checkups may well become a norm, boding well for the overall workplace.

Work Culture
Companies may introduce cultural changes such as rotational work hours to limit the number of people on the premises. ‘Work from home’ may become a way for companies to operate, increasing demand for technologies enabling this. Apart from safety, it will also lower the cost of operations for companies.

New Skillsets
This is a good time to train employees in new skills and, thereby, encourage innovations. The pandemic has revealed the significance of digitalization for a company’s survival. Investing more in digital technologies to ensure that in future similar calamities do not hinder day-to-day operations is a tactical move. Choosing as well as implementing apt technologies requires certain skills and the time available now can be utilized to impart the right training to the workforce.

ESG Investments
The environment has benefitted from the ban on movement. With fewer vehicles plying, both noise and air pollution have come down. Measures taken to combat the pandemic show how reduction in industrial activities can reverse the damage done to the environment. Conscientious companies will make an effort to reduce their carbon footprints. ESG investments have picked up and may soon become a priority for companies.

This is good time for companies to re-visit their strategies on all fronts, including innovation and introduction of new product lines. There are instances of automobile companies investing in face masks to meet demand. While this is a short-term impact, companies could learn from it. They can take a relook at their business strategies and diversify to ride over the low demand for certain goods across the globe. This will not only help the company survive the current downturn but may well become a profitable venture later.

The pandemic has changed the world as we knew it irrevocably. The old rules of success may not apply in this new world. It is time to recover and realign ourselves to the new way of life. This is a time to reflect and make necessary modifications in our business plans to ensure that the lessons learned in the pandemic help us move forward in a systematic manner.