When I think of the ‘new normal’ in terms of what is directly in front of us, I think of uncertainty, and the constantly looming possibility of having to change. In my opinion, adaptability is the one absolute traits that is needed by any business or company during current times. The ‘new normal’ doesn’t seem to currently have a normal as such, other than it being unpredictable, with many employers and employees experiencing very different norms.
To be able to consider bringing people back to work, companies have had to spend more time and money, in already gruelling financial circumstances, on providing a safe working environment. Many offices have invested in protective plastic screens, better cleaning schedules, sanitising stations and signage. Working space has been reduced to allow for social distancing between workers, meaning that numbers of people working in offices has also been reduced. We have recently been working with Pathfindr who have adapted their assets to provide companies with Safe Distancing Assistants; a fantastic and fool-proof way to bring people back to work, whether that be on a construction site, a factory or in an office. The ability, in this instance, for employers and businesses to adapt their working environments to suit the need for appropriate measures, is crucial in being able to start back up and get the economy moving again. For those employees entering their new workspace for the first time since March, they will be getting used to very new processes and ways of working, even down to how and when they have their lunch.
Pathfindr Safe Distancing Assistant
Huge numbers of people have been made redundant already, serving as a major blow and providing masses of uncertainty towards their future financially. Change can be very hard to deal with for many of us, especially when it is affecting such a big proportion of our lives. Employee wellbeing now needs to be a very strong focus in all environments, as many more employees are likely to be struggling with their mental health significantly. Many companies are now offering ongoing counselling and support for their employees. Retaining connection between co-workers is also essential right now, as some people remain working from home, meaning they aren’t seeing the friendly faces of their co-workers as they have done for a long time. MS Teams and Zoom has become a bit of a lifeline for us all, allowing us to continue to meet face to face, although virtually. The very relatable aspects of the difficulties we have all faced may mean that our ‘new normal’ brings employee wellbeing to light, and our personal environments may be far more selfless and focused on helping others – in my opinion, a change definitely for the better.
A widely shared concern is the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19. Whether this comes over the next few months, or whether it may peak again during winter, or if it doesn’t come at all, whatever happens, we need to be prepared. This comes back to the ability to work in a continually evolving and uncertain environment, which is crucial to the survival of businesses currently. If we do experience a second wave, it may be that most employees need to be able to work from home, as we avoid having contact with anyone outside of our own homes. Furlough may no longer be an option after the recent damage of COVID-19 to our economy, so adapting our homes to function as offices and workspaces may also be very necessary for most of us again. Will companies be able to support their employees from home completely, ensuring that all relevant paperwork, notes, and important documents can reach them successfully? Can laptops and desktops be provided where needed? Will employees be able to maintain work ethic and morale without any co-workers around them, and what will businesses do to support the feelings of isolation if this does happen? At Saline, we remain without an office for the moment, so getting all of us together on MS Teams meetings every day, and even hosting Teams BINGO each week has really boosted morale and helped to keep us all connected.
The change in office and site environments can be surprisingly daunting and difficult to adapt to, especially when you’ve known it to be a certain way for a number of years. The massive change to the social aspect of working so close alongside people is something that isn’t particularly easy to get used to. Being adaptable and prepared for change has never been so intensely needed, and if businesses aren’t able to adapt so fluidly to our continually changing environment, in our ‘new normal’, will they survive?