A return to the office – but not as we know it

Comment & Opinion

BACK TO THE BUILDING Colleagues greet each other with a quick elbow bump.

Reopening of indoor activities another welcome Covid milestone

Yesterday (Monday, September 21) was a seismic day in the country’s battle against Covid-19. Office space in cities and towns at last started to welcome back workers for the first time in over 18 months.
The magnitude of the battle we faced back in March 2020 only revealed itself several months later and ‘working from home’ became the norm for so many office workers for a long, extended period.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday was an important day for the economy, and for society as a whole. He added that it had been made possible by the country’s exceptional vaccination uptake, which has seen more than 90 percent of the adult population vaccinated.
“The Government is confident that the guidance provided, through the recently updated Work Safely Protocol, in addition to the exceptionally high vaccination rate of our adult population, will keep workers safe as they return to the office,” a government spokesperson said yesterday. And with the peak of the Delta variant having now passed, we can but hope that case numbers will continue to drop and there will be no more major workplace outbreaks.
Those who returned to the office for the first time yesterday will have been met with a very different working environment.
These include maintaining two-metre distancing between staff, wearing masks in certain circumstances and ensuring adequate ventilation and hygiene measures are in place.
The Health and Safety Authority is to continue to be the lead agency around workplace compliance with the protocols, and it and other State agencies will continue to carry out inspections.
But most companies across the board have invested heavily to ensure employee safety while trying to maintain a working environment that is not totally alien to life before the pandemic.
Covid has been a nightmare for everyone to deal with, but it has also shone a light on working practices that were a little archaic and unnecessary.
Remote working is now a reality for nearly all companies. In particular, the newspaper industry has been able to embrace the new normal, cutting down on travel time and office time with the use of Zoom and other communication software.
However, most journalists and those who work in advertising relish the opportunities offered by face-to-face interaction. The human touch is what got a lot of people involved in the industry in the first place, after all.
Many interviews have been done in recent months in outdoor settings, over a coffee, but now as winter approaches, it is refreshing to know that people can be welcomed back indoors.
The simultaneous return of indoor activities will be a huge boost for the many clubs, societies and organisations whose members have not been able to meet up for such a long period of time.
One can only imagine the joy that many will feel at being reunited with close friends in familiar surroundings. They will have longed for that feeling after such a long time apart.

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