The workplace post-COVID

My final recommendation is that when redesigning the workplace, and consulting public health officials, we can only mitigate the risk of COVID or equivalent since complete elimination is a Utopian dream


By Kevin-James Fenech

Kevin is the founder and owner of JOB Search - and FENCI Consulting

I think the workplace will change radically in the not too distant future. The COVID hysteria will accelerate the revolution of the workplace. I am not referring to short-term or quick fixes such as perspex walls or face masks; I am thinking of more permanent and long-lasting changes. Allow me to try and peer into the future:

  • Walking into an office building will involve ‘sanitation tunnels’ and mist sprays to sanitise all incoming persons;
  • Guest health ‘screening’ and detailed logging of visitors;
  • Hygiene stations will be located all over the office;
  • Wayfinding which directs internal foot traffic for one way circulation;
  • Touchless sensors everywhere i.e. office lighting, doors, flushing, etc, all activated by movement and not hands;
  • The use of smartphone apps and/or voice technology to control or operate all electronic devices at the office;
  • Virtual meetings or roofed ‘open air’ meetings becoming the standard;
  • Desks which are 2m (in radius) apart and using materials that can withstand industrial grade disinfectant meaning wooden desks will be out and laminates or equivalent in;
  • Solution dyed floor coverings which can withstand heavy duty cleaning materials and do not absorb germs or viruses; The office will look, smell and feel more like a sterile hospital;
  • Ultraviolet devices on every workstation enabling employees to clean smart phones, iPads, keyboards, basically any electronic/technological device;

Air-conditioning for office buildings will require major re-engineering to avoid the risk of community infection. I am here thinking of EPA (High-efficiency Particulate Air) filters incorporated with high-energy ultraviolet light units to kill bacteria and viruses. Also office air changes per hour will be increased to ensure higher standards;

The 40 hour, five day a week, office routine being replaced with 3 days at the workplace followed by 4 days working remotely from ‘home’ and managing your own ‘working hours’ or similar variations with weekends becoming a blur; In addition, staggered starting/finishing working hours so as to evenly spread the inflow/outflow of employees over several hours rather than concentrating all at the same time. This could be the biggest change to the workplace and could mean that the physical office is open 16 hours+ a day so as to accommodate this flow of people at staggered intervals;

‘Tracingtogether’ Apps will (unfortunately) become the norm and refusal to consent could mean you simply can’t work;

Fashion in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) becoming big business allowing employees to personalise and customise their PPE’s thereby allowing individualism to continue to thrive without compromising on safety although I am sure the dreaded ‘face mask’ will not be part of future PPE equipment since in its current form it simply doesn’t offer the protection people think it does; I am more thinking of the ‘work’ clothes we wear incorporating safety measures and made out of materials that protects us from germs and viruses. This could also mean the death of the suit and tie in favour of a Star Trek type work outfit;

Immunity certificates will be a must to start a new job or keep your existing job and such certificates will need to be renewed periodically, say every two three years. This also begs the question, if other ‘health screening’ will make its way into recruitment and employee retention;   

I think every company above a certain scale or size will need to appoint a Chief Health & Safety Officer (CHSO) as per law. I think it will be a legal obligation to have a CHSO and if your company is too small you’ll have to outsource this function to external experts. I see this function together with Risk Management being absorbed by the CHSO and developed much further. I think banks, insurers and/or regulators will be as interested in Financial Statements as in Risk Management & Business Continuity Plans.

Ultimately, I’d like to think that this is an opportunity to make the place of work even better than it was; even safer; and more fun, since people would slip in and out seamlessly from home to work and back. I hope all parties are winners in this new reality; the employer and the employees.

My only concern is that with this ‘new normal’, however, privacy and personal data might be sacrificed and technology would yet again steal more control from our personal lives. I know contract tracing apps will contain anonymised data but I wonder if this is completely full proof.

As much as public health is important we must always bear in mind that there are other considerations most notably peoples’ liberty. Never underestimate the importance of liberty!

My final recommendation is that when redesigning the workplace, and consulting public health officials, we can only mitigate the risk of COVID or equivalent since complete elimination is a Utopian dream.

So let’s grasp the opportunity to make work fun and make everyone more engaged, productive and serene but let’s aim to mitigate rather than eliminate.

More in People