The Pandemic and our Workspaces

As the second wave of Covid-19 is hitting the globe, the world going back into lockdowns is testing our patience. The pandemic has already significantly affected all aspects of our lives. There have been huge monetary and non-monetary losses worldwide and compromises have had to be made in relation to basic necessities, routines and priorities. Among all the compromises, rethinking and rearranging personal and professional spaces has been no exception.

The transition from offices, workshops and studios shared by teams to confined corners in the house has made a great impact on the overall manner of working. While some may have settled into a dedicated room in their homes, others may have had to completely rethink the plan of their workspaces. Such a drastic change can easily disrupt the mood and efficiency of work accomplished.

One of the main reasons for this disruption is that our regular workspaces, regardless of their size or location, are specifically designed for the particular task that needs to be performed. For example, a corporate office space would be adapted to and equipped with office resources, such as printers and scanners, to facilitate working efficiently and comfortably; while a studio built specifically for students and professionals of arts or architecture would enable them to organise their supplies and work without interruption for long periods of time. However, while working or studying from home, distractions are usually unavoidable. It might also not be possible to organize or arrange, say, tools and equipment like one is used to and this would, hence, affect efficiency and productivity.

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Morale has also been negatively affected due to reduced communication and inability to physically work with teams, especially in situations where teamwork cannot be accomplished remotely, such as engineering students needing to build a robot together. People from the same profession, that can work together physically, find it easier to communicate and discuss ideas in a group, while being able to respect each other’s personal space for independent work requiring an individual’s concentration. Working from home, though, has made it difficult to manage the freedom and flexibility that family members with conflicting routines otherwise enjoy in their respective private, professional spaces.

The resulting communication gaps and, in some cases, lack of access to a complete set of work equipment necessary to create a conducive work environment, have had a negative effect on our work performance and have damaged team dynamic. This has also affected our mental health since so many among us prefer to be able to go out of their homes daily and have some social interaction with our colleagues. Our physical health may be at risk too if, for example, there isn’t sufficient lighting available or the chair and desk are not comfortable.

As the second wave of lockdowns approaches, we should now adapt to the “new normal” and focus on being productive regardless of where our workspaces are. While a lot has been said about how to become better at teleworking by, for example, communicating effectively with our team members and setting strict routines for ourselves and our family members, little consideration has been paid to what our workspaces actually look like.

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It is now time to focus on having a functional and comfortable workspace at home, for those of us that can afford to stay at home. Consider making a trip to your actual office and moving some of those office supplies to your home that nobody else in the team uses. Even pen holders and drawer organisers may help you bring efficiency in your work day. A comfortable chair that supports good posture would go a long way. Many people decorate their offices with artwork and photos of their loved ones. At home, we were caught off-guard in March and had to improvise. We now have had time to plan how we want to bring life to our surroundings. It is also becoming fairly common to get a work partner: two colleagues connect online and work silently on their own computers or physical models, except for the occasional words that they would’ve exchanged had they been working on adjacent desks.

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By now, we have ruminated enough on how our world has changed, perhaps permanently. Our losses have been huge and we may never be able to go back to how life was. So we have to think of new ways to adapt. Let us normalise having beautiful and cosy workplaces in our homes instead of having to resort to working in cluttered corners of our living rooms or bedrooms.

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Areeba Ahmad

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