A Day in the Life: At Work After COVID
May 27, 2020
It’s 2021. Quarantine and shelter-in-place restrictions have been lifted. You’re back in the office after months of working only remotely, and you’re looking to convene to refresh your peers and broader stakeholders on your organization’s objectives, compliance risks, and duty of care responsibilities.
Your morning arrival into the office already looks different than it did one year before: on your way in, you passed a more prominently positioned hand sanitizer dispenser in the lobby. Rather than stopping for coffee at the formerly popular pod-based machine, you’ve already placed an order on your app and picked up your Americano from the office’s new barista, eliminating any shared use of a coffee machine amongst colleagues.
Entering the section of the building home to your team, you recall the open, but densely packed floor plan that struck you as contemporary and appealing when you settled in for your first day of work only a few years before. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as technology got sleeker, so too did our work areas. Decades ago, there was a standard desk size, but the trend had been to shrink individual employee workspaces and grow collaboration spaces. Outside of your office, your team was previously seated with one row of desks facing another, in a “benching” configuration, where those rows had desks lined up, side by side. To accommodate distancing employees six feet apart, those desks weren’t wide enough, and now your team sits scattered safely apart.
As you sit at your desk preparing for your meeting, you get a call from a colleague on another team, asking you to drop by before lunch. You almost reflexively ask her where she’s decided to sit for that day, forgetting the office’s “hoteling” or “hot-desking” policy has been suspended for some time, meaning that employees no longer come in and find any work station to occupy for the day, but are back to designated desks.
The 15-minute reminder pings for your meeting, and you head to the conference room to ensure you have time to set up your presentation before the group arrives. Walking down the hall, you notice they really should replace the adhesive arrows on the floor — the ones that indicate the one-way direction for walking — as these have already gotten worn by foot traffic.
You see the sign on the conference-room door confirming it’s just been cleaned since the last meeting, time stamped 30 minutes prior. At ease, you enter the room and check that you brought your own set of markers for brainstorming on sticky notes. Happily, you see you remembered to note in your invite that attendees bring their personal sets as well. Within a few minutes, a half dozen of your colleagues stroll in and have found their socially distanced seats around the table, and you reflect on how sparse the room looks. With only part of your team physically present, the conference room is now maxed out given the current capacity restrictions; the remaining team members have dialed in virtually.
Later that day, after a successful meeting and subsequent virtual 1:1s, you make sure to grab your notebook when you leave your office as you’re part of the “segment 3” of employees scheduled to work from home tomorrow per the established cadence for the winter cold and flu season.
Exiting the office by the door-opener button you triggered with a tap of your foot, you walk out the door, get into your car, and call your partner to compare notes on your way home and debate over who’s going to pick up dinner. Your GPS interrupts the call over the Bluetooth: you’ll be home 30 minutes earlier than you were used to this time last year thanks to less commuter traffic. With the gift of time, looks like you’re picking up dinner tonight. Pizza it is.