October 26, 2020 4 min read

The concept of workplace has transformed in the last few months with remote work remaining steadfast. Lunchroom coffee top-ups look quite different in our own kitchens. Much like acclimating to an upcoming winter season, there were grumbles, there were new sweaters and new routines to get us through. With that in mind, what are we to expect once the green light is given for a return to the office after months of working at home? According to a recent Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, “the number of Canadians working from home [has declined] for the fourth consecutive month.”Whether that trend continues is hard to say but preparing for your return to the real home office means shifting your perspective.

Work from Home Policy

Rear view of young man sitting in home office.

Before the pandemic, a work from home policy in some companies seemed like the mythical unicorn; you didn’t believe it until you saw it. Work environments have always been designed to keep employees focused, productive and of course, happy to come into the office. Now that many have experienced remote work more consistently, the pros and cons have been stacking up. All that buzz has pushed some companies to leave their work from home policy open (we’re looking at you, Facebook).

So, what do some of those pros and cons look like? Everyone has a different situation depending on their circumstances but there have been enough matching similarities. Let’s start with the cons and rip it off like a band-aid together:

  • Zoom Fatigue: it’s no coincidence that the rush to video conferencing also meant a new search term on Google. As a result of sitting in front of a screen all day, the exhaustion takes a toll. You’re not the only one feeling it.
  • The Ever-Changing Work Office: physical space has been a big contender for many setting up their home office. The lightings not right or the internet connection is weak, but one thing is for sure: all the juggling around for the perfect spot puts many off to their start of the day.
  • Unexpected Guests: we can’t control when a cat tail, an ambulance siren or a toddler’s cry might interrupt that meeting and we cringe each time it does.
  • Catching Up Chats: it’s straight to business with so many meetings back to back. Every precious minute is accounted for which leaves no room for those friendly chats magnifying that sense of isolation.

That seemed bleak, right? But there’s always a flip side:

  • Patience & Empathy: whether it’s an internet connection gone down, or you need a breather, it’s okay because we’re all in this together.
  • Flexibility:with commutes out the window, there’s suddenly a bit more time on your hands, like sleeping in. (Don’t mind if we do snooze button!)
  • Health Breaks: squeezing in a brisk walk or doing some yoga is as accessible as getting your afternoon coffee. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
  • Creative & Virtual Chats:booking a virtual lunch with a team to catch up or setting up a chat creates that sense of community and connection we’ve all been missing.

The Transformation of the Work Office

It’s to be expected that with any change comes innovation because humans have a rep for being adaptable. If there’s a problem, we tend to try to fix it. Take the simple snow tire as an example; snowstorms, ice, and rain weren’t going to get in the way of getting from point A to point B. Invented in 1908, winter tires have evolved to meet the needs of the present. (They also led to the invention of the snowmobile, thank you very much). The same can be said about the work office which has been remodeled from open office layout to cubicle days back to open office layouts. So, what’s this next stage going to look like?

Aerial shot of a group of coworkers working together at a long desk with laptops.

The conversation is already buzzing among architects rethinking the way offices will now be designed. What’s being considered is the ideal size of the work office that accommodates safety measures for a full return to work. That also includes contactless measures where possible – think elevators, door fobs, anywhere a point of contact occurs. Technology might be able to help with that (hello voice-activated commands, pun intended). Some are even selecting materials more practical for long-term disinfection and cleaning.

In the meantime, what does a return to work look like with the office spaces currently waiting for use? A few ways work offices have changed include:

  • Sanitization stations and hand sanitizer distribution to keep on top of clean hands.
  • Rotating office schedules to ensure physical distancing can be kept at all times.
  • Regular disinfection of workspaces as a precautionary measure and for peace of mind.
  • Clearly marked standing spots and walking directions to move consciously around.
  • Temporary partitions for workspaces that need that extra bit of help.

Being Ready in Any Job Environment

Adjustment to a job environment, whether remote or in the office, can be jarring which is understandable given the circumstances. When it feels like it might be too much back and forth, it’s important to check your perspective and communicate your concerns to your employer. Chances are you’re not the only one thinking it.

The good news is everyone is working together to make the work environment effective. Shifting the work office from home and back is temporary; like changing your winter tires for the season because it’s the safe thing to do for everyone down the road.

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