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New challenges await social distancing office users

Despite patting ourselves on the back for flattening the curve in Saskatchewan, we flatlanders ar...

Despite patting ourselves on the back for flattening the curve in Saskatchewan, we flatlanders are not out of the woods yet.

In the anticipated buildup to employees returning to their traditional workspaces, stringent protocols will be in place for office users in particular.

A return to our previous normal practices seems a long time away. Some predict the COVID-19 pandemic will change office interaction permanently.

Get those social distancing steps in

High-rise office views have always been coveted by tenants.

With most office towers moving toward lessening social interaction traffic, some operations have moved to mandated single-occupant elevator loads.

For users only a few floors up, this may encourage them to just hit the stairs; but in 30- or 40-storey buildings, that kind of hike in your dress attire may not be achievable.

Tenants in Calgary’s high-rises are already facing up to 40-minute waits to get into an elevator. That’s partly because the system is designed to stop at every floor it’s called to.

This could make for a long ride from top to bottom.

In very dense office setups, some employers are phasing-in the return to the office with split shifts. This will involve staggering staff loads every other day.

If successful, one could foresee the temporary home office becoming an effective permanent solution to slowing the spread of typical workplace illness that can occur in tight settings, such as seasonal cold and flu.

While some work interactions do need to take place collectively, I could see employees certainly demanding more home office flexibility.

Who’s minding the store?

The shift to home workspaces has directly led to a heightened interest in remote monitoring of employees.

Many of these types of software developers have seen spikes traffic to their websites and increased installation of free trials.

One developer out of Indianapolis noted that in a normal month they would expect around 5,000 trials worldwide; that number is sitting at around 15,000 today.

There is no Canadian law against installing software to monitor employees off-site as long as employees are fully informed of the system.

For companies operating under billable hours, monitoring time spent on projects could be useful for real-time proof of work completed and has little to do with snooping.

The new office norm?

Twitter has already announced employees can work permanently from home going forward.

Google and Facebook have said employees can work from home until at least the end of year.

The fallout of these decisions will impact commercial real estate down the road. At one property in Waterloo, that is already the case.

OpenText Corp., a large Canadian software company, has announced it will permanently close half of its offices as some staff will continue to work from home even after COVID-19 health concerns are lifted.

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