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Arvind Babu, Workplace Experience post covid, Cognizant

Arvind Babu, Workplace Experience post covid, Cognizant

To a large extent, ‘normalization’ is dependent on accepting the new requirements and trends that have come into vogue. Most of the companies that have opted for Work From Home, are slowly returning to office with minimal numbers. All companies have introduced employee safety and hygiene protocols at work to ensure a safe working place for returning employees.

While safety is the primary goal, organisations are institutionalising the practices around hygiene, social distancing, touchless facility operations and enhanced awareness building for employees. All organisations are conducting virtual awareness sessions about the newer ways of embracing work at offices when employees return. These include practicing physical distancing, choosing virtual meetings, limiting the exposure and managing teams virtually. Health awareness is on the rise and organisations are making it easy for employees to choose the relevant health plans as part of benefit offerings. The typical offerings at office cafeteria are replaced by healthier and immunity-boosting options.

The primary modification to the workspace is around physical distancing. Seating is de-densified, corridors and walkways made one way or marked clearly, cafeteria de-densified; washrooms and other facilities too operated with the social distancing in mind. Some changes in the HVAC system ensured that the ambient temperature was managed around 26 degrees and to make up for thermal comfort most organisations have moved to pump in more fresh air.
Also using staircases was encouraged against elevators and cab/shuttle capacity was optimised keeping the distancing measures in mind.

Automated dispensers for sanitizers, tissues and most hygiene consumables started trickling in quickly at the onset of lockdown. Other steps included using technology for remote sensing of temperature, usage of a mask and facial recognition for attendance and access. Food and beverage vending machines are being installed in most offices reducing manual intervention and thereby exposure for employees in the pantries.

Apart from building the necessary awareness among users which is the primary challenge, the next pressing challenge would be repurposing the existing infrastructure and real estate set up to suit the modified demands. The corporate real estate industry which was hitherto pursuing the agenda of more out of less (higher utility out of each sq.ft.) would now have to relook at the newer designs of existing infra to make them safer and more hygiene centric. Conference rooms, medical facilities, collaborative places, gymnasia, auditoriums, etc, all need a redesign.
The employee workplace itself would have to undergo a repurposed design that outs employees safety and good health at the centre. The change in paradigm that will bring this novel thinking is the challenge and everything that comes out of this filter would be the future of the workspace.
Work will move from 'where one goes' to 'what one does'. This would mean enabling the employees to achieve their outcomes from wherever and not necessarily from the workspace. Empowering the employees to set up their home offices, with the right security protocols and ergonomic set up would mean more productive employees than otherwise with reduced travel time and commute related stress.

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