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Working In An Office After A Pandemic-Induced Quarantine

Last updated on May 27, 2020

It’s been about 3 months since many of us started working from home en masse, owing to the shelter-in-place requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, it took a couple of weeks to get used to working in this mode: sitting at a desk at home for long hours, attending remote meetings, and typing dozens of emails and chat messages everyday, to keep up with all the necessary communications.

In due course, we got used to it, and began to appreciate all the benefits it offered. You could sleep in a bit longer as you didn’t need to drive to work. You could take a quick shower and put on a t-shirt and some old jeans. You could have your breakfast or your morning coffee as you logged in to your first meeting. During the day, if you really weren’t feeling up to it, you could take a little break to refresh yourself.

And most importantly, you could work without having to wear a mask, or worrying about touching the doorknobs or the faucet.

As many companies have acknowledged, employees worked remarkably well in the last couple of months, and overall productivity has been good.

It is now getting to the point where some of the companies are considering how and when to get people back in the office. The first question that crops up in everyone’s mind is “Is it going to be safe?”

There are a lot of things to consider. How many people are going to work at the office on a given day? Is there a need to change the seating arrangement? Will we go back from the open-desks to the cubicles? How much of a difference will that make?

What about the breakroom? Will there be coffee and snacks? How safe is that? And the restrooms?

How many people can be in a conference room? Will the central air-conditioning make the virus more contagious?

This is an unprecedented situation that many companies are facing. They need to factor health-care related considerations into the workplace like never before. Do they have enough masks for everyone? How often will people replace their masks? How to ensure that everyone follows the guidelines for physical distancing, handwashing and the like?

How is it going to affect working relationships? If you often grabbed a couple of your coworkers into a small conference room for a quick discussion, you are probably going to miss that. People may prefer to be left alone at their desks, and prefer to talk to you over the phone, or chats.

What if someone sneezed because of some dust on their table? That is surely going to turn some anxious and suspicious heads. Could he be carrying the virus? What are the chances? Oh! I just talked to him an hour ago. Was I standing too close to him? Would it be rude to tell him to go home? Or am I supposed to let his manager know, or is it the HR?

It is going to take some time to get used to this new normal of working in an office.

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