Imagining a Post COVID-19 Workplace

The following text was started on Friday March 13, 2020,

“Dream with me, imagine the workplace after COVID-19 is controlled, never going back to old methods.

We’ve learned there are so many meetings that really should have been emails, that for years we grossly under utilized virtual meeting technology. Those stuck in early 00s office habits were exposed; and learned, adapted, thrived even, and were more efficient than ever.

People with kids, elder and family care responsibilities, mobility constraints, chronic illness, mental illness, and other struggles well never know fully are meaningful contributors to organizations, on their schedule. Because time is money, but time can also be made to work for individuals.”

Now I’m back in the present, Sunday March 15, 2020. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota just completed an hour long press conference on school closings, which presents extreme challenges for many in the state. I am so fortunate to have experience as an independent consultant, I’ve had to think VERY creatively in tough times. For those who are able to easily pivot to teleworking, we are in a position of privilege. It is not that difficult to now add your child(ren) back to the home while schools are closed. Those who work in non-office settings should be ready for their employer to begin to approach the work day and schedule in a creative way. This is the time for administrative controls to shine! 

If you are in the non-office category, put your own thinking cap on – how could your workplace do things differently so that parents are able to care for their children who are now at home for the next few weeks (at least)? Innovation at this time is needed, and will likely be rewarded. We are in interesting times in which decisions made now will impact how we work in the near future. I am optimistic for the future of work, the workplace, efficiency, and balance. 

For my fellow office-based folks, we have always been overhead, and we should have already been working efficiently to reduce that overhead. If you’re not experienced in working from home, you may have laughed at those who work from home in the past… you’re about to find out it is indeed serious business. You are about to learn how productive you can be, how long a day can be, and how many available working hours there are in a day. You must dedicate a space, now matter how small, for your laptop and other essential office tools. You must have ergonomics and longevity in mind when you set up this space – it is NOT sustainable to plop your laptop at the kitchen table! You may do that from time to time, but it should not be your default. 

Check out my past posts on laptop ergonomics and other considerations for teleworkers here and here. My safety friend Cathy White posted a great video for practical ergonomics as one begins to setup their home office, even if it has to be at the kitchen table. 

If you find yourself feeling isolated, use your employer’s web conference platform to reach out to coworkers and colleagues. I personally just quickly changed multiple in-person meetings to Skype, Zoom, and Lifesize meetings. I still have Google Hangouts and other tools at my disposal as well. 

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The Safety Justice League podcasts will continue on their usual schedule, so make sure to take a listen – you’ll feel like you have 4 new fun coworkers! Find us wherever you usually listen to podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I Heart Radio and more. 

And finally, keep a positive mindset and have empathy for your coworkers who may be juggling a LOT right now. This classic video could be any of us! 



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