News National Back to the grind: But don’t expect to see your work spouse

Back to the grind: But don’t expect to see your work spouse

Going back to work won't be the same as it was before the coronavirus. Picture: TND
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For many, returning to the office will be a chance to see the person you’ve missed most during the coronavirus pandemic – your work spouse.

Except, you probably won’t. At least not at first.

Returning to work for Australians is going to be very different.

Seeing your favourite colleagues? Unlikely.

The typical nine-to-five grind? Gone.

And communal biscuits? They’re another thing you won’t be able to enjoy.

Until we have a vaccine, our workplaces won’t be the same.

In a bid to revive our tanking economy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for Australia to return to business as usual by July.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s National Cabinet meeting, Mr Morrison said we needed to “get Australians back to work in a COVID-safe economy”, claiming the shutdown was costing us $4 billion a week.

To help Australian businesses create “COVID-safe” workplaces, new guidelines have been published on the Safe Work Australia website.

Working during virus recovery in Australia won’t look the same.

For many Australians now used to working from home, the prospect of swapping track pants for blazers and collared shirts may sound unappealing.

But perhaps they won’t have to.

As part of the COVID-19 safety recommendations, employers are being encouraged to let staff continue to work from home if possible.

This means more virtual video meetings – and 24/7 access to your fridge – instead of commuting to work and meeting face to face.

At workplaces where staff are required to appear in person, shifts will likely be staggered to limit the number of people present.

Cafe, restaurant and bar workers will be required to keep a safe distance from customers, and food handlers may need to wear gloves.

It is likely there will be strict limits on patron numbers to avoid crowding.

Office workers are in luck – the days of never-ending meetings are over.

From now on, meetings must be very brief and held in a large open space and only if they cannot be held online.

On Tuesday, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said cleaning products and hand sanitiser should be in all workplaces, and that handshakes and hot-desking will be banned. 

Gossiping about your weekend with the person next to you is going to be much harder to do privately, as desks and tables must be moved apart to comply with social distancing.

Social distancing will continue in the workplace. Picture: TND

Private cubicles may be making a comeback after years of open-plan offices.

To limit the risk of infection, communal biscuit and lolly jars will be off the menu and surfaces like keyboards, doorknobs and computer screens must be regularly wiped and disinfected.

Staff will be required to wash their hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and to practise good hygiene.

And if you’re feeling unwell – even if you have a runny nose or sore throat – you must stay home.

Employers and staff will be on high alert for any signs of COVID-19 symptoms.