For some, it will soon be a year since the last time they set foot in an office. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep through countries, it is sometimes hard to remember that days were once punctuated by a daily commute, water cooler chats and afterwork drinks. But although the timeline is still unclear, offices will inevitably re-open in the future – leaving many wondering what kind of a workspace they will be stepping into on the day that they get to dust off their office shoes. Analysis firm CCS Insights predicts that in 2022 more than half of all office-based employees will still work mainly remotely. Whether you are team WFH, or increasingly desperate to return to the comfort of an office desk, one thing is for certain: with half of the workforce at home, at least on a semi-permanent basis, workspaces will no longer be designed to accommodate floods of employees coming in every morning for another nine-to-five shift.
Like many top executives, Jason Traff has lots on his mind to ensure his employees who want to go back to the office can safely. The co-founder of Shipwell, an Austin, Texas-based cloud-based supply chain startup, Traff is considering letting a small number of workers back in the office a couple of days a week. Although he's seen his business tripled and staff doubled by adding more remote employees by adapting a work-from-anywhere concept amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Traff and many of his employees miss the in-person collaboration and camaraderie. He's brainstorming how technology could both help create a productive and protective work environment. Some experts have already offered possible suggestions ranging from a slew of apps that help monitor contact tracing, operate touchless entries, to making sure there's proper ventilation flowing to knowing when meeting rooms and breakout spaces – even desks are available – and deep cleaned.
Peter van Woerkum has spent the past few weeks working in, and fine-tuning, what could turn out to be something very like the office of the future: the office of our coronavirus-altered future, that is. He takes the lift (in which only two employees are allowed at a time) then walks clockwise to reception and grabs a recycled paper mat to cover his desk while he works. He makes his way through the now extra-roomy office – the firm has removed furniture to avoid clutter – to a workspace, which has, of course, been thoroughly cleaned overnight. This TechRepublic Premium ebook compiles the latest on cancelled conferences, cybersecurity attacks, remote work tips, and the impact this pandemic is having on the tech industry. He brings his own keyboard, mouse, and laptop. Near his desk, there are marks on the floor indicating how close his colleagues should stand if they fancy coming over for a chat. If he needs the bathroom, he has to follow a specific route designed to avoid bumping into other workers. And his keyring has a new addition: a copper token that he can use to press buttons and open doors without touching any surfaces. SEE: IT pro's roadmap to working remotely (free PDF) Since mid-March, Cushman and Wakefield, the real estate company where van Woerkum is chief operating officer, has been thinking about the transformation that the office will need to go through as employees start returning to work.
Employees are equipped with laptops, remote collaboration tools have been downloaded en masse, and IT teams have stepped up VPNs to support safe remote working across entire organizations. Almost two months into lockdown, the workforce is only just adapting to a new routine away from whiteboard meetings and after-work drinks – but employers, for their part, should already be planning for an eventual return to the physical office. Staff won't be coming back to work under normal conditions. Without a vaccine on the immediate horizon, organizations will have to reopen the doors of the office while COVID-19 is still in the picture. In a new report from research firm Forrester, analysts call this the management phase of the crisis, lasting well into 2021, which will consist of re-organizing how we work, travel, congregate, eat, move and connect.
Jo-ann Olsovsky, who leads Salesforce's internal information technology department, said she expects most companies in post-Covid markets to adopt a hybrid approach to the workplace, where employees split their time between coming into the office and working from home. They enable employers to stagger work shifts and provide staff with daily health checks before entering a building, among other measures. The Morning Download delivers daily insights and news on business technology from the CIO Journal team. The platform and new apps are also an example of the company's expansion beyond customer-relationship management software. On Thursday, Salesforce reported revenue of $5.82 billion in the latest quarter, up 20% from the same period last year, driven by record sales of remote-work and other business continuity apps.