(WEHT) — As businesses re-open, employers are being told to change protocols at offices to keep workers safe.
That includes spacing out work-stations and requiring face masks.
Eyewitness News Brandon Bartlett spoke to business strategist Mike Zeller on office spacing becoming the new trend across the country.
Brandon Bartlett: Mike, thanks for joining us tonight. Businesses are opening back up and people are now going back to work. What are some of the biggest changes that you think workers will face?
Mike Zeller: Some of the biggest changes we’re going to face as people go back to work is honestly it’s a reacclimation of what is the new normal What’s it look like to Be friendly, but also be respectful with social distancing. That’s going to be one of the challenges. Because some people will want to continue to practice social distancing, others will be like, Hey, I’m so excited to see people again. Right? So do you handshake? Do you fist bump? Do you do virtual fist bumps? Do you wear a mask like there’s gonna be a lot of honestly boundary issues and anxiety. People like even when we first went out to eat at a restaurant again, after two months, my wife was like, when a server got within six feet of her she was like, afraid for a moment. So you’re going to have a readjustment period. And you’re also going to have and leaders are going to have to create space for their team members that have different I would say different senses of personal space and safety, like some people are going to be more anxious about it than others. So you got to create space for both parties to respect their desires, and also, you know, because if if I don’t feel safe going to work, and I don’t feel safe being close to people, but people continually infringe upon that, then that’s also going to be a challenge.
Brandon Bartlett: Are you finding that some people fear going back to work?
Mike Zeller: I am seeing that some people are afraid of being close to others, which means they’re going to be afraid of being in proximity to others because we’ve been taught like we’ve had it brought, like, pummeled into our brains that hey, the right thing, the responsible thing, the best thing to do right now is to avoid to practice social distancing, to create space from others to not engage in physical proximity to others. So like that’s going to be a real issue. I have friends and clients that have had anxiety around that very issue that are still struggling with it today. Two and a half months later, after Some places around the country have opened back up. They’re not sure what to do. They’ve almost got PTSD around this.
Brandon Bartlett: Yeah. Well, in your opinion, what can bosses and managers do to ease those fears?
Mike Zeller: I think, great question. I think one of the biggest things that a boss or leader is going to have to do is, is create acceptance to be able to discuss some of these things, you know, as people were acclimating back to work, create space and freedom, like almost a guideline. Ask others. The respectful thing to ask is, hey, do you feel safe with me being this in this close proximity to you? Do you feel safe here? Do you feel safe working in at this desk or do you, you know, if you’re more paranoid or more afraid of certain things, then let’s put you in a different spot. But also like the the bosses and the leaders, this is where emotional intelligence is going to be really paramount where you’re going to have to read your employees, but also create freedom for them to express that, hey, you know what, I don’t want to be in big meetings. I don’t want to be touching stuff that other people were touching. And you’re also because if people do not feel safe and do not feel that you care about their health and their safety, especially if it’s an at risk individual, or older individual that is more at risk, then you’re going to be, you might run the gamut of being deemed in an insensitive boss and insensitive leader just because you didn’t navigate these trials very well.
Brandon Bartlett: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about the office space itself. Are you expecting to see desks farther apart and maybe even more plexiglass setup?
Mike Zeller: Yeah, I definitely think we will have that in some environments. You know, in, in cities and in cultures and demographics in our world, we’ll have you know, where people were more concerned about that, probably in the north, you will see more physical proximity. You know, the southern cultures, sometimes their people are like, hey, screw it. Like they’re not afraid or whatever. I’m seeing a little more of a rebellious nature in this, like the South is more open than the North right now. You know, you’re seeing states like Texas and Florida and Georgia, where no one’s wearing a mask versus many people in New York and Boston it’s frowned upon if you’re not wearing a mask and not practicing social distancing. So I think you’ll see more more of that in areas like New York. And you’re also going to see more creative remote work agreements, where you might have rhythms of, hey, this part of our office staff or our team is in the office on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays this week. And then this other part isn’t on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And so you’ll have a little bit of a cadence between remote work and in the office, even more so than before. And a lot of people like that. But there are also many people who are like, Hey, I get I gotta get out of the house. I’m stir crazy and cabin fever. crazy right now. So there, some people are very excited about getting back to work too.”