Are rotational offices the future of work? Here’s what the experts say

Over the past few months, most of the country has been working from home. Businesses and companies that have typically frowned upon working from home have not only embraced it but discovered that it wasn’t as bad as they thought. Twitter told their employees they can work from home “forever”, Facebook told their employees they can work from home for the remainder of the year if they choose, while Google has begun the “rotational office” movement. So, what exactly does that entail?

In this blog post published on May 26th, Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated the following:

Beginning July 6, assuming external conditions allow, we’ll start to open more buildings in more cities. This will give Googlers who need to come back to the office—or, capacity permitting, who want to come back—the opportunity to return on a limited, rotating basis (think: one day every couple of weeks, so roughly 10 percent building occupancy).

Pichai goes on to note that they will have strict health and safety regulations in place as well, ensuring social distancing and sanitization guidelines are being followed. They will also be giving their workers a $1,000 stipend to expense necessary home office furniture and equipment. Over time, if all goes according to plan, their rotational office system will increase gradually to 30% capacity.

Other companies throughout the country have had these measures in place for some time, the goal being to maintain a streamlined workday without risking infection by close proximity to others. In Huntsville, Alabama, Brooke Izzo, Director of Marketing & Communications at the Huntsville Sports Commission, has had workers on a rotational basis since March.

“Currently, the Huntsville Sports Commission has a rotating schedule, meaning a staff member may cover the office one or two days of the week and telework other days,” said Brooke Izzo, Director of Marketing & Communications at the Huntsville Sports Commission. “This allows for the office to be covered without staff being in close contact for an extended period. Health and safety are our top priority, we clean between each shift and will assess our current plan if COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Huntsville.”

In more congested areas like New York City, these rotating schedules have only been the case for select companies, but as phases are achieved and cases remain low, many are considering the rotating office as the new normal. 

The reason for this rotating structure may come as a shock to some: increasing feedback from employees who want to go back to the office. Most company officials and HR representatives maintain that it’s a small fraction of their workforce that actually wants to go back in, but in the event that they do, they want to make sure all the necessary precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of their employees. 

While most people have adjusted to working from home, there is a lack of routine and in-office camaraderie that can’t really be replaced. Creating a rotating office might be the answer for some, but if you’re heading into the office one day per week, and you’re the only one from your team on-site, is it really worth the commute? Some workers who have been doing this for a few months state that it’s more about breaking up the work week than anything else. 

One worker on Long Island, NY, who chose to remain anonymous, said that she prefers it because it gives her a routine again, and she enjoys the change of scenery, even though the office is quiet. 

“I’m usually the only one there, maybe one or two other people on the whole floor, but it’s fine. I like being at my old desk, and there are no distractions like TV, or the other things that can pop up when you’re at home. Maybe it’s just me but I feel more productive.”