As a public servant, and similar to every other industry, there is a lot of speculation about what post-Covid workplaces will look like. Many of our operations can be done well-enough from home, and the challenges we have now are mostly about IT infrastructure, home office solutions, and privacy. Much of our work is digital and email-enabled, so it’s not a giant leap to work from home. We just traditionally haven’t done that transition for all the usual pressures related to remote workers and supervision/monitoring, and some unique pressures related to privacy, taxpayer dollars, and supporting Ministers in person.
Paul Taylor over at Governing.com wrote an article about five changes he sees coming to the public service post-Covid. Here’s an excerpt:
Your Cubicle. Our Conference Room. Where Did They Go? Your space may get bigger as facilities staff reconfigure space to conform with the 6-foot separation requirements. Coupled with limits on group size, that is likely to grow cubicle row into what were once conference rooms.
Beyond the Point of No Return. Social distancing is bound to spread employees across more square footage than agencies have to reconfigure to handle everybody at work. What’s more, as governments confront the need for budget cuts in the tens and hundreds of millions, the public-sector layoffs announced to date are likely to rise exponentially as the tax base shrinks.
The Grey Beard Dilemma. The Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials have cautioned since the beginning of the crisis that “Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” That may provide some employees an excuse to leave public service early — or be the catalyst for difficult conversations with their managers about a mutually agreeable plan of when and how to transition.Five Changes Facing Public Employees When They Return to the Office – If They Do | Governing
He has two other points about masks and gloves + surveillance and testing, and I think it is way too premature to be estimating what those measures look like. One estimate of putting 100 people per floor into a 20 floor office building (with only 2 people per elevator to maintain distancing and assuming normal start times and the usual number of elevators per building) had it taking almost 3-4h to get everyone just to their desks. Exits would take the same although maybe a bit faster if some people take the elevator.
However, I agree that there will be a lot of discussions about rejigging floor spaces and decreasing common areas. I also think there will be much greater emphasis on giving people camera-enabled computes with full band-width capabilities (the Canadian federal government has had lots of laptops and tablets with cameras, but very little infrastructure to support video-calls from your desktop), and if you are meeting through computers, why not continue to work from home?
I’m less sold on the ruminations about layoffs in mass modes — there will be debts to pay off, guaranteed, but there will also be huge government programs to implement. It’s way too soon to make those estimates.
But as an ageing worker with diabetes, I fully agree about the complications going back to the office. I have zero interest in risking my life just to work in a cubicle. If I can do my work from home, I’m happy to do so. And if they offered some sort of buyout/medical early retirement option? I suspect I would be crunching the numbers to see if I could make it work.
Great article, even if I don’t fully agree with all his points.