Ready for the ‘new normal’? A glimpse at life after COVID-19

The workplace is changing, and everyone has a role to play. Here’s how we see COVID-19 shaping the way we work: new injuries, floor plans and rostering.

Employers have a duty of care to do what is reasonably practical to ensure the health and safety of their workers. That means doing what’s reasonably practical to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while at work. This is why working from home remains the most logical choice (where possible). 

But as more restrictions ease and employers start preparing for the post-apocalyptic workplace, we take a glimpse at what life might look like for office-workers in the ‘new normal’.

1. New ‘workplace’ injuries

Working from home arrangements are likely to stay in place in some form for many office-based workers. It’s important you and your employer have thoroughly identified the potential risks to your health and safety at home, so they can be minimised. 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us hard and fast, and in the scramble to keep businesses operating as usual from home, potentially, some health, safety and wellbeing risks have been overlooked. 

While injuries sustained while working from home can be compensable, workers are legally obligated to take care of their own health and safety and follow their employer’s health and safety policies, procedures and instructions. This may include:

  • following procedures about how your work is to be performed
  • following instructions on how to use the equipment provided by the workplace
  • maintaining a safe working environment (appropriate furniture, best practice office and desk set up, adequate lighting, repairing hazards)
  • looking after your in-home safety (reliable smoke alarms, safe use and storage of electrical equipment)
  • reporting changes that may affect your health and safety when working from home.

Without adequate home offices, it’s possible we’ll see a surge in work-related injuries that could include, for example:

  • neck and back pain from slouching over the coffee table, 
  • trips, slips, and falls, 
  • injuries like eye or hand and wrist strain from prolonged improper use of laptops. 

It’s also expected we may see more psychological injuries, like anxiety, where poor communication, social isolation and uncertainty may have affected employees. Additionally, as workers are required to return to the workplace, a notable lack of workplace hygiene and social distancing practices and policies could increase existing stress and nervousness. 

2. New office designs 

High-density open plan offices and hot-desking are heading out. Spacious new offices where workers have 1.5 metres between them are in. Communal kitchens and bathrooms will likely need a more vigorous cleaning schedule as employers must provide clean work spaces to help remove traces of the virus.

3. New employee rostering

It’s not just the desk spacing and communal areas that need crowd control, the number of people in lifts and lobbies will also need to be managed. Which could mean that the usual full office population won’t logistically be able to present at the same time. This could result in staggered start and end times as well as alternating days in the office supplemented with days working from home. 

The way we work is changing

While this virus is here with us, the way we do work in conventional offices is likely to change. And while employers have the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers, employees are still required to do their bit, too. 

Keep up to date with your workplace policies and procedures as they’re communicated and don’t be afraid to speak up through your available channels if you have any concerns about workplace health and safety.