Working From Home Was Fun While It Lasted

Working from home became a sudden necessity when COVID exploded onto the scene. And its future was all the rage in the business media for weeks.

But now that the initial shock has worn off, is it really the road that employees — and just as importantly, their employers — want to go down? Fun at first, but the shine of kids yelling in the background and cats walking over the keyboard can wear off pretty quickly.

More importantly, is this do-it-all-from-home mode healthy for us to be in all of the time? First, it requires a great deal of self-discipline to get work done when not operating within a standard workplace culture. That alone can challenge productivity over the long-term.

And what about a healthy work-life balance?  Not many people want their work life and home life to be permanently intertwined all day, every day.

An August article in Forbes, based on a study by the Martec Group, found that working from home was not going all that great for many employees.

“While some blossomed working from home, the survey also found a significant decline in mental health across all industries, seniority levels, and demographics. Job satisfaction, job motivation, and company satisfaction were also negatively affected,” the story reads. “The Martec Group study found that only 24 percent of employees felt like their stress levels improved working from home, and 42 percent reported increased stress levels.”

Some employees thrive working from home. But anyone managing a workforce of any size should realize that adapting their current workspace to the present reality of COVID is a priority moving forward. It’s probably better not only for employers but most employees too, for practical workplace solutions to be put in place in short order.

Not that this is a short-term issue. COVID is nowhere close to being under control.

A recent article in Nature put it this way: “Although their forecasts and timelines vary, modelers agree on two things: COVID-19 is here to stay, and the future depends on a lot of unknowns, including whether people develop lasting immunity to the virus, whether seasonality affects its spread, and — perhaps most importantly — the choices made by governments and individuals.”

The article states clearly that most modelers do not expect to see 2021 fully put an end to the pandemic. Widespread vaccine distribution will probably not occur until sometime in the third quarter of next year — and that’s the optimistic scenario.

So, the reality is that the places where people congregate — barring periodic, temporary, and localized shutdowns — will have to be redesigned to cope with COVID. Every location will need its own unique complement of solutions.

The approach we’ve long followed here at Horgan General Contractor Inc. — an integrated project delivery (IPD) process that incorporates the broad swathe of stakeholders who are vital to any business — is well-suited to meeting the challenge of making work and educational spaces ready to return to.

Our Safe Return to Work (SRW) initiative, which we’ve developed over the past months, can be implemented in a variety of settings. We can handle a wide range of commercial and industrial construction requirements, from general logistics, space planning, design-build, electrical HVAC engineering, furniture solutions, and office interiors to relocation and turnkey services and tenant representation.

The bottom line is that working from home, for many, was necessary at the onset of the pandemic. So little was known about the realities of COVID, and frontline medical services needed time not to become overrun while adapting to it and it was necessary to stay put. But now, it’s time to give people the opportunity to have their homes be home again by making sure they can safely go — as in physically “go” — to work again.