By TOTT News
Workplaces are looking very different from what they used to, as people begin to return to their jobs after months at home amid the coronavirus lockdown.
From mandatory ‘COVID Safe’ guidelines and work-from-home normalities, to online surveillance and virtualisation of business, a new social stage is being set.
Just look at how much society is already beginning to change, and how it is hitting the very mechanisms that make the wheel turn — workplaces.
The federal government is preparing ‘high-risk workplaces’ to get back to work in a ‘COVID safe’ economy, while social distancing ‘normalities’ are reaching new levels in operating environments.
A new toolkit for Australian businesses has recently been installed on the WorkSafe Australia website, designed as a resource to help get business up and running as soon as possible.
The toolkit outlines mandatory requirements for how employers in high-risk workplaces can achieve a secure environment in a new coronavirus-vigilant world, from personal hygiene to social distancing — even what to do in the case of a suspected outbreak of the virus at work.
In circumstances where the employer needs employees back in the workplace, the first step will be to ensure this COVIDSafe plan has been developed and submitted for approval — taking into account the public health orders in place so as not to breach the relevant restrictions.
For restaurants, hair salons and other environments, details must be left and held on record:
For businesses that maintained operations through the pandemic period, a number of changes were already made as developments progressed — and are set to remain and expand in the aftermath.
Firstly, nine to five working days have already be altered, with staggered start and finish times introduced for a number of industries, particularly warehouse environments.
This includes measures for physical distancing and, in some workplaces, the four-square-metre rule. As a result, employers have been relocating workspaces, or introduce teams of workers who attend the workplace in shifts, so fewer employees are present at any one time.
In the office itself, cleaning products are everywhere. Greeting colleagues and clients has also rapidly change, with handshaking being given the red light in most businesses.
Meetings are also being done differently, with people no longer required to sit in small rooms for gatherings, rather using video meetings where it’s possible to do so. Interstate travel is restricted.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said he doesn’t think Australians “will be shaking hands and randomly hugging and getting crowded in rooms for a long time.”
What a time to be alive. Expanding, it’s not only inside workplaces that is set to change dramatically for both functioning and return-to-work organisations, but outside activities is also playing a key role.
THE DIGITAL PUSH
Many employees have long sought the flexibility to work part- or full-time from home. While some employers have resisted this, even stigmatised it as being for ‘slackers’ or people not serious about career progression, they have now been forced to adapt this model to survive isolation.
Many companies have subsequently shifted to work-from-home models during the so-called crisis and are using surveillance software to monitor employee activities.
Employers will already be noting upsides of having more staff working from home, not considering the massive cost transferral to the employee. The savings on city office-space and communications systems, for example, on utilities and data, will be significant.
It’s not hard to see how many will continue these practices beyond the scope of restrictions, be it to save on costs and flexibility confinements, or to avoid the impracticality of new work guidelines.
Here is where the choice now lies: To install largely untested and vulnerable workplace monitoring technology to work-from-home, or go to work and accept whatever new ‘guidelines’ to be followed.
Not only was the COVID-19 event a lesson in mass human psychologyand social engineering, but branches found in the aftermath will also fundamentally alter the nature of organisations in Australia. There are many experiments inside of the grand experiment, so to speak.
Jennifer Petriglieri, an organisational behaviour academic, says post-isolation society will need to “deliberately work to bake this new capacity into the employment market permanently”.
Do you think workplaces will be able to sustain under these new measures, or will they take whatever opportunity they can get to continue cost effective work-from-home models?
This could all just be a plan to continue the gamification of reality. From virtual real estates, to restaurants flocking online delivery platforms, to digital shows and plays, the world is now embracing digital trends. Before COVID-19, the online space was treated as an afterthought for expanding an audience beyond the reach of physical spaces. Now, it will become the commonplace.
It’s a win-win for the controllers. This means more surveillance, through applications like Zoom — partly owned by the Chinese government — and further normalisation of technology for acceptance of the era of transhumanism. All of this undertaken while engineering the masses on a grand scale.
‘Yes sir, I will stand 1.5 metres at all times and will work at my secure cubicle to protect colleagues!’
To note, this shift will not be a choice, and forced acceptance will occur through the reality of recovery. Not only will ‘COVID safe’ guidelines be impractical, but a long and tough road to rebuild once the support nets have vanished will ensure digital alternatives are accepted with open arms.
THE JOB MARKET
For many whose businesses are now in hibernation, the post-pandemic future looks bleak. Rebooting without government support (many are ineligible for jobkeeper or jobseeker benefits) and with only remote prospects of attaining pre-pandemic turnover, will be too daunting.
It’s problematic and emotionally fraught looking for silver linings in times of such misery and economic distress, and the Polyergus continue to spill Orwellian optimism on the screens.
No doubt, consumer behaviour will change moving forward, businesses will be hesitant to invest and, as in almost every other recession, armies of workers will struggle to earn a wage.
Steve Koukoulas, Managing Director of Market Economics, says the pandemic aftermath could see “a crushing of entrepreneurship and economic risk-taking” because “opportunity for gains has been swamped by an illustration of how bad things can get personally when things so wrong”.
National or even regional recessions can be devastating enough. International recessions are something else again. Australia is a small export-oriented country, at the whim of world forces.
It’s now becoming clear that even if we do get back to some semblance of ‘normality’, whatever that may be, it will be a much longer climb back than the fall. Perhaps this was the plan all along.
Put two and two together: Not only will this reshape the workforce, pushing many traditional workplaces out of business, but it will ensure the virtualization of all activities for those remaining.
The coming era of artificial intelligence and hyperreality is already predicted to spell bad news for industries like truck driving, warehousing, etc. Could this be another added element to this plan?
Surveillance and normalising digital avenues, while an economy struggles to regain its feet after national lockdowns. No doubt, regional Australia will be hit the most hard by this recovery, where many cannot work digitally.
It certainly sounds familiar.
And echoes of The Great Depression are everywhere.
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