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A Strange New Work(space)

A Strange New Work(space)
November 3, 2020 gnuworld
new workspace

We’ve all been told that our workplace will never be the same. We’ve been told to expect changes. We’ve been told it will be this way for the foreseeable future – and maybe even the unforeseeable future as well. But what does a post-lockdown office look like? After a prolonged absence from The Workplace and XtraSpace due to the Covid-19 lockdown, our members and clients have returned and today I’ll be sharing what my team and I have observed in the new working world.

We’re Learning a New Set of Rules

We all have to abide by new rules in terms of social distancing, sanitisation, hygiene, masks and more. We’ve learnt that we all have to all be more considerate now and abide by these rules – not only for the sake of our own personal safety and the safety of those around us but for the companies we work for as well.

Everyone has to be aware of the fact that failure to abide by the new rules can now have a huge effect on your company. The danger of going back to a higher priority lockdown level is ever present in our minds – as is the risk of being shut down and losing permission to have your business open because you contravened the current lockdown and hygiene rules. What we have picked up is that these adjustments are easier for the businesses who are adept at managing change and are keeping the lines of communication with their teams open and efficient.

Safe is a New Concept

What was once a safe and familiar space is now scary. The familiar faces and people who were part of our daily routine now present a risk. Our clients certainly have a healthy fear of Covid-19 and are placing societal pressure on those who don’t follow the rules.

For those who returned early on in Levels 4 and 3, we have observed that this fear seems to dissipate over time as people adjust to the “new normal” but for the most part, everybody is still sticking to the social distancing and sanitation rules.

Onboarding has Changed Dramatically

Whether we look at this from the perspective of The Workspace and XtraSpace branch managers engaging potential and new clients, welcoming new staff – or our clients onboarding new staff of their own – this doesn’t look like it used to.

People are finding themselves in a very strange situation where they are starting a new job having never met their new managers and colleagues in person. Instead of being welcomed over a coffee on your first day, you are met with disembodied voices over Zoom and video calls with people who will become significant figures in your daily life without knowing when you’ll ever be physically in the same room together.

For The Workspace and XtraSpace teams as well, virtual tours and remote onboarding of new clients and members has become a way of life. We have had to think outside the box to make people feel welcome and to fully understand what we have to offer without the benefit of having potential clients soak up the great atmosphere of a specific branch.

Business Culture has Changed – And it’s so tough!

Experts say that organisational culture comes down to three factors: How we greet, how we meet and how we eat. Its safe to say that all of these have changed. We don’t come together as working teams the way we used to. Lunch hour, staff get togethers and even office birthdays aren’t the same. Either because we are not all together at the office like we used to be or because of the hygiene practices we must now follow.

How we greet might be the most significant change of all here. Handshakes are all but extinct and we can only hope that they will return one day. Why hopefully? Because this simple gesture is so much more ingrained in us than we think. The handshake actually goes back thousands of years. The grasping of hands was a gesture that showed that your weapon wielding hand was empty and that you did not mean to start any conflict or attack. If you have found yourself missing this seemingly small gesture, now you know why.

All of this is hard on us – and it has been hard in ways that we could never have anticipated. Culture drives so much of our behavioural and relationship-based dynamics as humans and now after thousands of uninterrupted years, we have had to change the ways we relate to and interact with one another. We have to do things that don’t feel instinctive or intuitive – and will have to keep doing these for a while still until better days arrive.

Hope is Still in the Air

This brings me to my last point – what we have observed overwhelmingly across all branches of The Workspace and XtraSpace is that the sense of scepticism, pessimism, and negativity that we expected is oddly absent. What we are seeing instead is colleagues and clients still finding ways to entertain and delight each other. We as South Africans have not lost our sense of humour and our hope for this all to be over and for the country to move forward as a united nation hangs in the atmosphere – making everything else that has changed, and dealing with this strange new workplace that much easier to handle!

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