One good thing may come of this crazy pandemic: Social distancing may put a permanent end to those dreaded open floor plans that have been all the rage these past years. And we thought cubicles sucked. Who knew the workplace could get so much worse?
As if zero privacy and a constant cacophony of coworker yapping wasn’t bad enough, turns out that packing dozens of people into an open bullpen like animals in a slaughterhouse also has a health risk. Thank God for that.
On a separate but related note:
Several CEOs have told me that they don’t plan to return to normal when the coronavirus pandemic is over. Now that they’ve seen how well things appear to be working with everyone working from home, they’re considering a more flexible arrangement with employees.
While I think it’s healthy to take this opportunity to reassess workplace productivity and all that, if you fast-forward say a year or two into the future I think you’ll find everything more or less the same as it was before the pandemic hit the fan.
There are three reasons:
First, we are social creatures. That’s why we have families, communities, cities and nations. We do better that way. It’s also hardwired into our biology. When you do get back to work, you will find that you missed the camaraderie. Unless of course your coworkers are all entitled dicks.
Second, the most critical functions of a company happen when small groups work together, and that works best when they’re physically in the same room. I know y’all hate sitting in meetings, but like it or not, that’s where ideas are born and decisions are made. Zoom is simply not the same.
Finally, we’ve been here before. Working remotely has long been hyped as the next big workplace thing. While we have dipped our toes in those waters — rightfully so — those who dove in headfirst found it to be a bigger shock than they expected. A lot less less productive and fulfilling too.
Don’t get me wrong. Affording some employees greater flexibility to spend some of their time working from home and staggering work schedules so people spend less time in traffic makes sense, to a point. At some point the issues start to outweigh the advantages.
I believe that executives and business leaders will once again come to realize the problems and limitations of employees working from home and spending less time working together in the office. Mark my words, the new normal will be just like the old normal.
Image credit Tony Alter / Flickr