- Now with COVID-19, a new world order is about to emerge. One could envisage a reversal of open to enclosed office spaces for white-collar work considering social distancing as a key protocol to be observed.
Change has come to our world. The game changer is COVID-19. When the history of this pandemic comes to be penned down, it is not only the health challenges it brought the people of the world that would be highlighted.
The tsunamis and detractions it caused and the confusions faced in all facets of life, including white-collar work, would also be of interest.
Trying to find a game changer in recent memory to compare, a world order that presented some initial fears, confusion and challenges and which readily came to mind was the dawn of the new millennium. At the approach of the year 2000, there were those very eager to welcome the anticipated millennium.
Prominent in the discussions were how pre-programmed information technology (IT) systems might crash our world and businesses. The most talked about and which caused some consternation was the possible confusion in air travels and other automated equipment and systems. To avoid panic and fear, people were advised, for example, not to fly on the first day or use automated rail systems and elevators.
Before the millennium dawned, there were numerous business conferences and workshops home and abroad. Almost all of them invariably hammered on the millennium and how businesses could take advantage for business continuity and growth in a new era.
Some even stretched the argument to the Book of Revelation. They argued how Chapter 20 of Revelation described the new order of the kingdom age that was going to make its debut “in a thousand years”.
Well, Christ did not come and the world did not crash. Despite remote reports of IT system failures in some parts of the world, the world rolled over into a new millennium with some new adaptations, especially in the corporate world. In my experience, the new order brought into focus, the concept of stronger team building for white-collar work.
One was introduced to seamless open office spaces which encouraged formation of business teams and the concept of business partners. Consequently, concrete walls, which formerly created enclosed offices, were brought down and open colourful office spaces emerged in their place.
And so teams from across various functions were all brought together in one open space. The open office concept caught on, as it encouraged faster decision making, collaboration and, above all, greater team cohesiveness.
The other discussion that the new millennium brought to the table, but conservatively endorsed, was flexible working times.
Now with COVID-19, a new world order is about to emerge. One could envisage a reversal of open to enclosed office spaces for white-collar work considering social distancing as a key protocol to be observed. The advantage is that the entire complement of the usual work force can go to work without much worry about distancing.
What others are also likely to adopt is the introduction of the shift system for white-collar employees. That would encourage depopulation in offices. The only challenge would be that offices would not necessarily have the full complement of skills during the shift system.
Social distancing in the workplace is also going to introduce working remotely. One could see the practice of working from home on certain days of the week as a new work order henceforth.
The disease would be hated and cursed any time anywhere for the atrocities it has launched on the world. However, it may also present a good order for city authorities with traffic de-congestion in our major cities.
If a shift system and working remotely come to be adopted in white-collar work, not many vehicles would be seen on our roads, as was the case before COVID-19. We would gradually lay off street hawkers and the entire attendant nuisance.
Additionally, families are going to benefit from such a system. Parents are going to have more time with their children. They would spend quality family time together, including dropping off at school and meal times because of the work flexibility.
For every unfortunate situation, there is always some silver lining. The social distancing protocol of COVID-19 is likely to bring critical changes to the workplace. Changes that would eventually be of benefit to white-collar employees, families and society.