Cublicle Comeback? Pandemic Will Reshape Office Life For Good
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Cublicle Comeback? Pandemic Will Reshape Office Life For Good
Office jobs are never going to be the same.

When workers around the world eventually return to their desks, they’ll find many changes due to the pandemic. For a start, fewer people will go back to their offices as the coronavirus crisis makes working from home more accepted, health concerns linger and companies weigh up rent savings and productivity benefits.

For the rest, changes will begin with the commute as workers arrive in staggered shifts to avoid rush hour crowds. Staff might take turns working alternate days in the office to reduce crowding. Floor markings or digital sensors could remind people to stand apart and cubicles might even make a comeback.

“This is going to be a catalyst for things that people were too scared to do before,” said John Furneaux, CEO of Hive, a New York City-based workplace software startup. The pandemic “gives added impetus to allow us and others to make changes to century-old working practices.”

Hive plans to help employees avoid packed rush hour subway commutes by starting at different hours, said Furneaux, who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. In Britain, the government is considering asking employers to do the same.

At bigger companies, senior executives are rethinking cramming downtown office towers with workers. British bank Barclays is making a “long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy,” CEO Jes Staley said. “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

That is already happening in China, where lockdowns started easing in March. Beijing municipal authorities limited the number of people in each office to no more than 50% of usual staffing levels, required office workers to wear face masks and sit at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) apart.

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May 15, 2020