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Workplace, social gatherings may never look the same again, researcher says

A new survey from getAbstract reflects ongoing predictions that the workplace may never look the same after the pandemic -- making it "almost impossible" to return to what is was before.  (Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As stay-at-home orders and restrictions begin to lift, companies might not want everyone back in the office.  That’s because having employees work remotely is more productive for the workplace, in many cases.

The traditional workplace and social gatherings Americans are used to may never look the same again, according to Dr. Tracey Wilen.

For those who will return to the office, personal distancing rules and norms may change to keep everyone safe.

Will this change the nature of work for a longer time?

“These are a lot of unknowns, I think right now people are still struggling to get used to it,” said Dr. Wilen, a business researcher and author on workplace topics. “But once patterns are created, we might keep some of the best practices.”

With restrictions beginning to lift on Friday by Gov. Gary Herbert, businesses may start getting back into the swing of things.  But Wilen said the culture of hanging around the water cooler and physical distancing in the offices may begin to change.

There are pros and cons to this

On the one hand, employees working from home are able to save money on no longer needed expenses  — such as gas money, dry cleaning, babysitting, takeout orders, etc.  On average, those workers can save up to $500-700 a month, according to Wilen.  And companies won’t have to spend as much on rent or buying office equipment.

But for occupations which require performing, it may be a while before they get back to a regular income.  For conference speakers, musicians, and performers — it could be months until they get a regular gig again, as Americans try to keep their distance despite stay-at-home orders being lifted.

As a conference speaker herself, Wilen said she’s expecting not to have many gigs throughout this year — calling it a “zero income year.”

But, for those working from home and struggling to adjust, Wilen said there are things workers can do to maintain their routines.

“You’re in a new world now”

“Part of it is a new mindset,” Wilen said. “Instead of replicating exactly what you had at the office at home, start to think creatively how this can be better than what you had before. I’ve found that it’s so much easier to work from home for so many more reasons than being in an office.”

Hear the full conversation with Dr. Tracey Wilen on Money Making Sense: