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How could COVID change the modern office? A UBC prof weighs in
VANCOUVER -- With safety at the top of everyone's minds as some businesses in B.C. start to open up again, it could mean some workplace perks disappear—at least for now.
Rebecca Paluch, an assistant professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business says communal areas in offices will likely need to close for the time being in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"I do believe, at least for the near-term, that those types of places, those communal areas will be put to the side for right now," she said. "I think one of the things organizations should really be thinking about is what purpose those types of benefits had served previously."
Paluch said those areas usually exist to foster co-worker interaction, as well as relationships with the organization itself, and there are other ways to achieve this, even during the pandemic when those physical spaces are no longer available.
"Organizations can do those types of things where people can still be separated but interact with each other," she said, adding that book clubs or virtual cooking challenges, for example, could help fill that void while avoiding any risky interactions.
Many offices these days have an open-concept layout to allow for collaborative work, but Paluch believes that those spaces may decline with more of an emphasis placed on physical distancing between workers. That could mean increased spacing between desks or workstations that are situated on opposite sides of a room.
"If that's not possible, then we'll probably see more barriers in between our workstations," she said.
Paluch also says that while studies have shown that working from home or telecommuting can be just as productive and even reduce worker stress, it's important for managers to check in with their employees regularly but not micromanage them.
"You don't want to have somebody who's completely feeling isolated and your manager is never checking in on them, nor do you want to have a manager who's micromanaging and constantly watching over that employee's shoulder," she said.
To watch the rest of the interview, click on the video at the top of this story.