Returning to Work in a Social Distancing World


The world is going through a very challenging time right now and everyone is affected differently. Following the coronavirus outbreak, life as we knew it stopped and the time of social distancing began.

COVID-19 graphics appeared everywhere. The “stay at home” message traveled the world. 

We had to adjust to a new normal which includes working from home, if possible. 

Many of us had to stop working altogether due to the pandemic and had to distance ourselves from everyone we know. 

Now we are beginning to see glimpses of hope as the virus gradually slows down and we will be able to go back to work.

But we all wonder what returning to work is going to look like amidst all of this. How will we be able to maintain social distancing and be productive at work? 

We will have to do what humankind has been doing for ages: adjust. 

This is what we know about returning to work so far. 

Returning to Work Differs From Country to Country

Some societies are implementing very strict measures when it comes to returning to work. That includes daily temperature checks, booking a seat on the bus in advance, extensive use of hand sanitizer, etc. 

Others will transform their open-plan offices into cubicles with enough space between employees. All employees will be tested for COVID-19. 

Businesses are contemplating ways to resume work without jeopardizing the health of employees and customers as we speak. 

However, returning to work will also differ from city to city or area to area. In large, crowded cities inhabited by millions, going back to work requires precaution. In rural areas with fewer residents and fewer cases of COVID-19, social distancing is more easily maintained and people are not as scared. 

Employers in Asia are organizing private transportation for their employees and trying to find ways to distance assembly line workers. 

Reduced Work Hours

Businesses are eager to resume work but the global situation dictates that we continue to be careful and go back to our old normal slowly, step by step. This includes reduced work hours and more time between shifts. 

In some industries, businesses will examine the demand first and adjust their work according to that. In other words, many businesses won’t go back to full-time work just yet. 

Health Checks are Essential

Many businesses will require their employees to measure their temperature daily before they start working. Health checks and testing for COVID-19 will become a routine to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. 

Aside from health checks and tests, employees in most industries will have to wear masks and gloves at all times. Employers are obliged to provide protective equipment for their employees before they require them to return to work. 

Social Distancing at the Office 

Businesses that were able to transition to remote working easily might postpone going back to the office until it’s 100% safe. Those who are forced to go back to their offices will have to find ways to maintain social distancing

That means more space between desks and fewer people in the cantine. If it’s not possible to make more room between the desks, employers will have to have some sort of barrier built in to protect employees. We’ve seen those barriers in supermarkets built-in to protect the cashiers but they might become regular at offices too. 

Employees are most likely to eat their lunch alone in the cantine for the foreseeable future. Most businesses will require only one employee per table.   

Meetings will be attended by fewer people as well. Employers are obliged to ensure a safe environment for their employees. This also means they must not bring all employees back to work at the same time but one by one or in small groups. 

Business Trips Will Have to Wait

After the coronavirus outbreak, more than 90% of business trips were canceled. Things are still not looking very promising when it comes to that. It will take a while before people start to feel safe at airports and before health officials give us the green light to travel abroad. 

No one knows when business travel is expected to resume. Many are hopeful that they will be able to go on with their planned international and domestic flights in the next few months, but this is only a hope for now. 

It’s a Process

Going back to work is not something that is going to take place at once. It is a slow process and one that depends on many factors including the demand and changed consumer habits, safety, geography, etc. The global pandemic has disrupted every single part of our lives and going back to normal will take time. 

It is important to stay cautious because if we are at war with COVID-19, then we have only won one battle so far, but the war is ongoing. As the curve continues to bend slowly, we have made a huge step towards a return to “normal” but we still have a long way to go. 

The best thing we can do is get used to the new normal and to putting our safety first. Going back to work will be just as challenging as staying at home and adjusting to curfew and all the safety measures was. 

The pandemic caught us unprepared and has put the entire world at a halt. Therefore, no one has a detailed plan regarding the future now. We will have to learn as we go. 

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