The 8 Craziest Office Trends to Emerge During the Pandemic

It has now been officially fifteen months since the office and workplace world was swiftly locked down in mid-March 2020 due to the pandemic. We quickly learned an entirely new way of working along with a new vocabulary and set of acronyms and technology to go along with it. WFH, Zoom, PPE, Hybrid, Hub & Spoke, etc. As we settled into our new remote routines it seemed like anyone and everyone suddenly was predicting what the office of the future would look like and exactly how things would change. The web was oversaturated with articles discussing, ‘The New Normal’, ‘The Next Normal’, ‘The Post-Pandemic Office’ and hundreds of ‘Workplace 2.0’ webinars, guides, and playbooks were created.

About six weeks into the pandemic, it started to get crazy, and I published a blog post about how everyone can ignore all of those future of the workplace articles, blogs and webinars and suggested:

“The fact is, the office will look different and, yes, health & safety will be at the forefront of the less-densified spaces we’ll all soon be occupying. Some workers will continue working remote and most companies will champion a staggered return to the workspace for their employees until they’re comfortable that there is nothing to be concerned about.

Beyond that though, we are all just guessing.”

Now 12+ months later and the certainty is that yes, we were all just guessing and now that everyone is returning to the office and workplace, it ultimately isn’t going to be that much different than the one we left. Yes, a little safer, a little more secure and a little more flexibility for employees, but not much else has changed.

I remember the first response to the situation that actually seemed like a decent idea and made some sense was the concept that Cushman & Wakefield’s office in the Netherlands created with the idea of ‘The Six Feet Office’. This was even before the CDC started suggesting a six-foot distance social distancing standard and I thought it was an interesting proposition. Since then, there have a been a plethora of much crazier ideas and trends that emerged and I thought it would be fun to review eight of the craziest ones we’ve come across.

 

  1. Tiny “cloffices’ – A closet that doubles as an office, essentially workspaces in closets.

 

  1. Privacy Robots and Balloon Walls – Leave it to Google, the company that helped popularize open office plans and lavish employee perks, to try to reinvent office spaces to cope with workplace challenges due to the pandemic.

 

  1. The Nissan Office Pod – Geared specifically toward the digital nomad and the WFA (work-from-anywhere) movement that became even more popularized over the past fifteen months.

 

  1. Plexiglass, plexiglass & more plexiglass – Dozens of half-baked office prototypes appeared, plastics manufacturers were advertising ready-to-ship coronavirus office solutions and lead times for plexiglass partitions and sneeze guards reached an all-time high.

 

  1. Eau ‘d Office – Miss the smell of the office printer? Candle companies began making office scented candles for those of us who longed for the return to pre-pandemic office life. I mean who wouldn’t want their apartment to smell like an overworked copy machine or reheated fish cooked by a coworker in the office microwave?

 

  1. Home Office Pods and Backyard Office Sheds – If you have a decent size backyard and an extra $15,000 laying around, you could have your own fabulous backyard workspace with all the technology and amenities you had at the office.

 

  1. BioVYZR Helmets – Forget the N95 mask or the single-use mask, rocking the whole mission-to-Mars-level protection during the pandemic for $250 a pop could add glamour and a sci-fi flair to your social distancing efforts.

 

  1. Calorie-counting desks – A Dubai-based furniture company actually began manufacturing desks that connect to your phone to calculate the calories you burn while standing.

 

In one study performed in the United Kingdom they asked children what they think offices will be like in the future after COVID-19. From breakout beaches to hover robots, the designs showed how children think adults need to have some futuristic fun when they returned to the office. After reading about some of the ridiculous trends listed above, perhaps we should have asked children for their predictions from the start!

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Work From Home Burnout

Working from home is often romanticized. The idea being that remote work leads to a more fulfilling life and an enhanced lifestyle because you have more time to do the things you want. But like anything that is idealized, the reality is in stark contrast to the fantasy.

Because for many employees, the work-from-home environment is a toxic one, adding as much as 15 hours to their workweek. Now that the work-from-home honeymoon is over, many employees are dealing with the emotional and mental repercussions of no longer being able to go to the office.

Why Are You More Likely To Experience Burnout When you Work From Home?

Burnout is typical in a traditional workspace and is often associated with being a workaholic or having an excessive workload.

But you don’t have to be a workaholic to experience burnout. Instead, once you lack a routine that you’ve built around going to the office, you’ll find you’ll easily overexert yourself, even unknowingly.

Essentially when you are working from home you don’t have traditional office hours. There is no clear demarcation or separation between your office and your home, and you are unable to escape office-induced stress by going home since your work resides with you.

All these factors exacerbate and accelerate burnout in employees by destroying the routine responsible for maintaining their cognitive abilities and effectiveness.

When your home is your workspace, you are more likely to blur the lines between work you should do in the office and the unwinding you do at home.

You’ll find that – even unwittingly – you are predisposed to toxic productivity. Checking emails first thing, creating schedules late into the night, skipping lunch, and sinking into general self-neglect.

These are the actions that lead to burnout in an office. However, when you take away the safe space that is your home – because it has become an office – you destroy the structures that allow you to combat burnout effectively.

The Implications of Remote Work Burnout

Remote-work burnout has far-reaching consequences that eclipse office burnout. The most devastating implication being that the effects of burnout aren’t as easy to reverse as developing a schedule that leads to burning out.

Reduces Your Ability To Identify You’re Burning Out

When you’re working remotely, burnout can go unnoticed for months, not because you have limited interaction, but because of the very nature of burnout.

One of the first signs of burnout is a decline in your cognitive ability. Therefore your decision-making, reasoning, rationale, and critical thinking are impaired. Essentially, preventing you from identifying that you are overworked and in need of rest and a reset.

However, when you are out of the office, burnout can linger, because it isn’t accompanied by the obvious warning signs, like extended periods spent in the office or taking business trips.

Since you may still be in your PJs by lunchtime you could think nothing of the number of hours you’re working or the limited time you spend doing anything besides work.

Amplifies Feelings of Loneliness

As is characteristic of working remotely, you spend most of your days in isolation. However, being isolated for extended periods leads to loneliness, and loneliness happens to be one of the most debilitating human experiences.

According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, loneliness is twice as harmful as obesity, having the same effect as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.

When you’re working from home, especially during a time like this, you have limited access to a community and can therefore experience immense feelings of loneliness. Additionally, you don’t have support from your peers because you’re in isolation, rapidly increasing your chances of recognizing the stark self-isolation and reducing your chances of finding meaningful ways to cope with it.

Increases Your Chances of Developing Illness

This effect isn’t limited to your location, burnout is known to increase stress levels whether or not you experience it in an office or a home. Over time this increase in stress is responsible for high blood pressure, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other diseases and illnesses. You don’t realize it, but burnout is rapidly shortening your life and reducing the overall wellness that you experience by having an office and the routine that accompanies it.

Is Damaging To Your Productivity

A vital characteristic of productivity is efficacy. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of productivity is “the rate at which a person or company does useful work.”

The presumption is that if you do more work – or take on the traits of a workaholic and work for longer – you’re being more productive. However, this is a simplistic approach to productivity and neglects a nucleus hallmark of productivity – efficacy. Over time you’re wearing yourself down and will need more time to complete fewer tasks effectively, essentially fueling the endless cycle that is burnout.

Conclusion

As many offices still aren’t operating at full capacity, there isn’t a clear method to resolve work from home burnout. However, there are steps employees can take to reduce their chances of experiencing burnout or finding ways to overcome it.

These solutions can include scheduling time at the office when it is available, prioritizing social interaction, and developing your quarantine bubble so that it doesn’t only include colleagues.

 

Contact Rightsize Facility here.

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