New challenges await social distancing office users

Despite patting ourselves on the back for flattening the curve in Saskatchewan, we flatlanders are not out of the woods yet.

In the anticipated build up to employees returning to their traditional workspaces, stringent protocols will be in place for office users in particular.

A return to our previous normal practice seems a long time away and some speculators predict the Covid-19 pandemic will change office interaction permanently.

Get those steps in

High rise office views have always been coveted by tenants.

With most office towers moving towards lessening social interaction traffic, some operations have moved to mandated single occupant elevator loads.

For users only a few floors up, this may encourage them to just hit the stairs; but in 30 or 40 storey buildings, that kind of hike in your dress attire may not be so achievable.

Tenants in Calgary’s high rises are already facing up to 40 min waits to get into an elevator. Partly because the system is designed to stop at every floor it’s called to.

Could make for a long ride from the top to the bottom.

Splitting workspace

In heavily dense office setups, some employers are phasing in the return to the office with split shifts.

This will involve staggering staff loads every other day.

If successful, one could foresee the temporary home office becoming an effective permanent solution to slowing the spread of typical workplace illness that can occur in tight setting such as seasonal cold and flu.

And while some work interactions need to take place collectively, I could see employees certainly demanding more home office flexibility.

Who’s minding the store

The shift to home workspace has directly led to a heightened interest in remote monitoring of employees.

Many of these types of software developers have seen spikes in the amount of traffic to their websites and increased installation of free trials.

One developer out of Indianapolis noted that in a normal month they’d had around 5,000 trials worldwide spark up; that number is sitting around 15,000 today.

There is no Canadian law against installing software to monitor employees off site, so long as employees are fully informed of the system.

For companies that operate under billable hours, monitoring time spent on projects could be useful for real time proof of work completed and has little to do with snooping.

The new office norm?

Twitter has already announced employees can work permanently from home going forward.

Google and Facebook have said that employees can work from home until at least end of year.

The fall out of these decisions will impact commercial real estate down the road and in Waterloo, ON that is already the case.

OpenText Corp., a large Canadian software company, has announced they will permanently close half of their offices as some staff will continue to work from home even after Covid-19 health concerns are lifted.

Posted by Kelly Macsymic

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