While there is a popular belief that a vaccine will bring us back to a state of normalcy in no time at all, it is becoming painfully apparent that Covid-19 will not be going away quickly. Despite that reality, there are some positive signs in workplaces. The WAH (work at home) glow is fading, workers are slowly returning, and we must applaud our industry’s rapid response to eliminate touchpoints in the break room. Equipment manufacturers have stepped up quickly.
When will we be back to normal?
In late September, Healthline asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when he thought things might be back to “normal.”
“Let’s assume that we get a reasonably effective vaccine. Not a measles vaccine where you have a 98 percent effective — I think that would be almost too much to ask for — but let’s talk about 75, 80 percent effective vaccine, which would be really good if we did that,” he said.
“If we did that and we ultimately got everybody who should be and could be vaccinated, I would think that, together with not necessarily abruptly ending measures like masks and physical distancing, if we could get the majority of the community to adopt those health measures together with a reasonably effective vaccine, then we could get the level of infection down so low in the community that by the third quarter end of 2021 we could start thinking in terms of normal,” he explained.
Office populations – a mixed bag of reports
The widely circulated report from Brivo, monitoring workplace “unlocks,” indicates that workplaces are at 51% of where they were in February. Downtown offices certainly bring down the average.
The Los Angeles Times reports that property management company JLL estimates that occupancy rates of office workers has grown from 10% of building capacity after the shutdown to as much as 25% — a trickle of returning workers, but a positive trend at this stage.
The WAH (work at home) reality
The WAH halo is fading. As employees feel safer returning to the office, they will make the move. WAH certainly offers some flexibility, especially for workers who have children. Overall, the WAH concept is proving to be flawed and is losing steam.
In a recent national survey of white-collar company executives by real estate brokerage Newmark Knight Frank, 70% said their employees want to return to the office full time once a vaccine is available.
Workers will welcome a return to the office for these three reasons:
1. The WAH reality for workers – While some are singing the praises of working at home, it does not work well for everyone. From the gardener blowing leaves outside the home office, to the dog barking incessantly next door, to the sound of a dishwasher being emptied, home office conditions are not always ideal. Many workers cannot wait to get back to the office.
Kimber Riggs, Global Facility Manager at Inphi Corporation, said her company has been extremely supportive, doing whatever they can to make work at home successful.
“Working at home has given us more of a life balance and the feedback from the office is very positive,” said Riggs, who then acknowledged one of the challenges of working from home – employee burnout. “You are never off; you are in your office 100% of the time.” Riggs said that on one occasion recently, her daughter asked her, “Are you going to work all night?”
“We get more time with our families working at home, but the days can be long,” she added.
2. Ego – As one young attorney explained, “I did not bust my ass in law school to work from my coffee table in my studio apartment.” Highflyers want the whole experience, from tech entrepreneurs to our aspiring young attorney, the corner office is part of the journey and the pleasure associated with achievement.
There is a reason why tech startups choose high profile office locations. How impressed will potential investors be when you conduct a meeting at the picnic table next to the garden shed?
3. The WAH reality for employers – I spoke to a former client, a facilities executive at a major Hollywood Studio, who made it clear that working at home is just not the best situation for companies in the creative world.
“We're assuming being able to work from home is the same as working optimally from home, and I worry that a year from now, any positives of working from home will be outweighed by the negatives of losing social connection and collaboration that happens at the office. Not everyone has the ideal home situation, either [poor internet, crowded, kids, dogs, a partner who is also trying to work there, etc.],” he said. “In most cases, it is not ideal.”
Cracks are starting to emerge
“A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out that “As the work from home experiment stretches on, some cracks are starting to emerge. Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating new employees, more complicated. Some employers say their workers appear less connected and bosses fear that younger professionals aren't developing at the same rate as they would in offices, sitting next to colleagues and absorbing how they do their jobs.”
What should operators do?
Hold the course. Commit to touch free technology. Double down on sanitizing. Keep the flow of communication going to your clients. Make sure your own employees are committed to staying healthy and following mask/social distance protocols. Do everything you possibly can to promote a safe work environment for your clients and let them know exactly what you are doing to keep them safe.
Once they feel safe, they will return to the office. When that happens, thankfully, your revenue will follow.
Industry consultant Bob Tullio (www.tullioB2B.com) is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. Tullio just launched a You Tube Channel, b2b Perspective, designed to “elevate your business in 2 minutes” and is currently developing an online course, “Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business.”
As he is a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA hired him to write and narrate the new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” which is now available. Use discount code B2B10 for an instant discount and for free access to upcoming Q & A Webinars from Tullio in the coming months. Here is a free sample of the course.