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What The Workplace Will Look Like In The Coronavirus Era

BOSTON (CBS) - Employees wear masks. Workspaces are outlined on the floor and cornered off by caution tape. There are hand sanitizing stations and even the microwaves have changed from a line in the break room to scattered around the facility. That is how things have changed for Avon based precision manufacturer AccuRounds.

"It really has been like drinking out of a fire hose from an information standpoint, if you will," said AccuRounds CEO Michael Tamasi.

AccuRounds was deemed an essential business and kept running even while the coronavirus shuttered the rest of the economy. Tamasi says he and his staff learned how to operate while social distancing in warp speed.

A worker inside AccuRounds in Avon (Image credit AccuRounds)

"We modified our door handles. Instead of grabbing it with your hand we tied a little hose to the handle, stick your arm in there and pull out," he said.

Now, as Governor Charlie Baker lays out a four stage plan for reopening Massachusetts, other companies are starting to fathom what the office will look like in the "new normal."

Gensler, an architecture firm, has been working to help clients reimagine their spaces.

"Clean throughout the day. Make sure that you think about circulation. Draw and develop circulation patterns that are maybe one way," managing director Doug Gensler said.

Gensler believes that individual work will be directed away from the office, leaving that space for communal activities once a vaccine is developed.

Social distancing sign in office (Image credit Gensler)

"I think people are going to look at the office as a place to come together. Not to do your focused work but to actually socialize, learn, build community culture," he said.

Michael Hansen, the CEO of education publisher Cengage, says it is impossible to come up with a plan to reopen the office without the ability to adapt as the pandemic progresses.

"Any sort of cookie-cutter plan that says, here's a 10 point plan to reopen to offices I think you can throw out the moment that it's printed on paper," he said.

For now, Cengage's 500 person office in Boston's Seaport sits idle and Hansen says it is realistic to think at least some of his workforce will continue working remotely for the foreseeable future.

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