As the new coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to disrupt the everyday lives of many, changes to the modern workplace have become inevitable. Though many have hoped for a total return to normalcy following stay at home orders; unfortunately, however, this is not the case, as COVID-19 is showing no signs of waning. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the different changes workplaces and employers can expect in the wake of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Workplace
Changes in the workplace have become inevitable as coronavirus cases increased through spring for many in the United States. Temperature checks, health screenings, spaced out cubicles and work areas, as well as some remote work, to name a few, had all been anticipated. However, there are still many other factors at play for the modern workplace as businesses and office spaces begin the reopening process, and as such, employers should consider the following:
Amid COVID-19, many employers have realized the importance of employee breaks from the standard 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday work schedule. While the idea of a shorter four-day workweek isn’t a new concept, reducing the amount of hours worked without cutting salaries can actually help businesses expedite a return to a new normal and prepare the company for the future.
Prior to the pandemic, some companies had tried out four-day workweeks or six-hour workdays, without cutting salaries. In study of 7,500 employees published in 2018, Gallup found 23% of workers reported feeling burned out always or very often at work, while another 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. Because of this, major brands like Shake Shack slowly implemented shorter workweeks at certain corporate office locations in 2019. While a shortened workweek, may not work for all industries, COVID-19 could bring about a broader movement toward adjusted work schedules in the United States.
Primary Focus on Remote Work
As many employees have become accustomed to working from home during the current pandemic, many large operations – like Twitter – have decided to keep employees working remotely indefinitely. Though it’s not likely that all office-based businesses in Texas and around the U.S. will transition to remote work entirely, the concept and uses of a physical office will likely change.
According to Fast Company, roughly 70% of offices in the United States are structured in an open plan, with people working at desks four or five feet wide, typically surrounded by coworkers on three sides. Employees share common spaces like elevators, hallways, meeting rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. In order to adequately follow OSHA recommendations and enforce social distancing in the office without leasing additional square footage, companies will have to reduce their in-office workforce by about half.
However, there’s a big difference between being a remote-first company and having a remote-focused culture. With fewer opportunities for organic conversations, leaders will need to be intentional about creating opportunities for idea exchanges on a large and small scale. This could include virtual happy hours to boost morale, online workshops to help employees adapt and grow new skills, corporate wellness webinars, as well as many other virtual company events.
Everything from videoconference calls to dealing with childcare and life at home has proved challenging for many. Because of this, employers will likely need to incorporate more scheduling flexibility than ever before. In fact, data from a well-being assessment conducted by Emplify Insights found 88% of employees said their employer has allowed them the flexibility they need in order to do their job effectively.
Business leaders are actually finding their teams are just as or even more productive when working from home, even if working the same schedule as they did while working in the office. This locational flexibility means employees can adapt their schedules to the demands of their personal lives while still working during peak productivity times based around their sleep schedule.
Houston Employment Attorneys
As workplaces adapt in the wake of COVID-19, many will need to make short- or long-term plans to keep their staff healthy and comfortable when reopening their doors. With new workplace changes like these, employment disputes are bound to arise. At Feldman & Feldman, we understand the difficulties many industries are facing during the ongoing pandemic. Employment disputes can have a devastating effect on an organization’s reputation. Whether you are interested in preventing disputes or are currently faced with an employment law issue, contact the Houston employment lawyers at Feldman & Feldman today to protect the best interests of your business.