COVID-19 brought about a lot of changes in the way we work, from masking and social distancing to increased hand washing and sanitizing. While these precautions were born out of necessity during a pandemic, they also created public spaces that were ideal for keeping people safe and healthy overall.
Consider, for example, that hospitalizations related to the flu have been at record lows over the past two years, almost to the point of zero. This decline in the seasonal flu is certainly due to measures intended to protect against COVID-19 but that also proved effective in preventing other kinds of infectious diseases. Although remote work has made it difficult to measure, we can expect that social distancing would also lead to fewer sick days and other lost time.
Should businesses therefore consider maintaining these protocols for the sake of keeping workers safe and even boosting productivity? Some of these changes are more practical or desirable than others but could also be beneficial for companies to adopt over the long term.
Hybrid and other flexible work arrangements have been popular with employees and seem likely to become the norm in many industries. Providing employees with options for when and where they work is not only a fringe benefit but can also reduce sick days and protect those working in the office. Expect companies to continue offering hybrid work schedules as a way to attract workers and promote wellness in the workplace.
While many of us eventually got used to wearing masks and maintaining social distance, these measures can also leave people feeling isolated and detached from others. Almost no one will continue wearing a mask indefinitely but you might see them return as a precaution during cold and flu season or when someone thinks they might be getting sick. Encouraging optional mask use can be a way for businesses to show they care about the well-being of their employees.
The coronavirus has also called attention to the importance of creating safe and healthy work environments. Sanitizing stations, air purifiers and open workspaces are a good idea to help protect workers, even without a global pandemic. Look to see these become the “new normal” in workplaces even after we finally leave COVID-19 behind us.