While Australia received its first major reprieve from COVID-19 restrictions this weekend, our lives are still a long way from what we once called normal.
- A Brisbane gym is enacting strict social distancing measures
- Most pools are likely to remain closed as it’s too costly to reopen
- City eateries are reconfiguring their dining spaces to low patronage
Individuals and businesses have been forced to adapt, painting a stark picture of what life might be like in the post-pandemic world.
If you are someone who sets your alarm early to exercise even when gyms can open their doors don’t expect your workout experience to be the same as it was prior to COVID-19.
Outdoor bootcamps are allowing personal trainers to keep their businesses alive for now, but gym owners are planning for the next phase.
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Joanne Johnson, who manages CrossFit Neuro in Brisbane, has already taped off areas to ensure her members are socially distant at all times.
“Just going to know what their perimeter is to work out in a safe environment,” Ms Johnson said.
Jo Johnson says her booking system will help with contact tracing if that is ever needed.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)
CrossFit Neuro is prepared to cap numbers of staff and members inside the gym.
Athletes will soon have to sign into an allocated timeslot.
“We won’t be sharing really anything in the gym. Equipment will be allocated to a designated area that will be cleaned before and after,” she said.
Her members will also have their own cleaning equipment in their designated workout space.
Booking systems will also help with contact tracing later down the track, should that ever be required.
CrossFit Neuro will provide all of its members with their own cleaning gear.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)
What about doing laps at the local pool?
Many operators have admitted it’s too costly to keep their facilities COVID-safe while they’re restricted to allowing just 10 people in a pool at a time.
Paying staff and extra cleaners, as well as heating costs, meant it was not viable for many local pools to reopen until restrictions are lifted further.
Brisbane City Council said all 22 of its pools would remain closed “until further notice”.
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Brisbane pools will remain closed over winter as heating and staffing for low patronage would prove too costly.(ABC News: Marc Smith)
Lakes and lagoons are potentially the best option for the time being and SEQWater’s Mike Foster said all its facilities were “very much back and open for business”.
Mike Foster from SEQWater says lakes and lagoons are “open for business”.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)
He said policing social distancing would be an added responsibility for staff and park rangers for the foreseeable future.
“In many ways we’re asking the community to really manage themselves and self-police themselves,” Mr Foster said.
“It all makes common sense, we know if we do it, it gives us our best protection so there’s plenty of ways to continue to enjoy the wonderful outdoors.”
It’s business ‘unusual’ in the workplace
The Commonwealth Bank is one major corporation that has kept about 80 per cent of its office staff working from home during COVID-19.
That equates to about 20,000 people who will now begin a phased approach to returning to their offices.
Those who are already working at the office are temperature-checked upon arrival.
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The bank has also been operating split teams that rotate between home and office since the pandemic began.
Westpac has about 22,000 employees working from home.
“Westpac is planning a phased approach for how employees can return to office locations safely over the coming weeks and months,” a spokesperson told the ABC.
Follow the red arrowed road
Tica Hessing is a human geographer and tenant adviser at Cushman & Wakefield, based in Sydney.
The commercial real estate company has developed a concept called the “Six Feet Office” and has spent the past week remodelling it.
The space includes stickers on the floor indicating a 1.5-metre distance from desks and cubicles.
There are even red arrows to encourage staff to move around the office in a clockwise direction, to help people avoid bumping into one another.
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“It’s not only about the physical workplace, but it also helps with changing the behaviour of people in the workplace,” Ms Hessing said.
The office innovations were the brainchild of their colleagues in the Netherlands and were put into action to ensure more staff could safely work in close proximity.
“We have the sneeze guards in place so that people can actually sit opposite each other,” Ms Hessing said.
How about lunch with a colleague?
Before coronavirus, Perth’s Yagan Square was a mecca for business workers at lunchtime.
Shy John Brewery & Yum Cha has been closed since March, but is reopening with a hostess who will advise patrons about the restaurant’s strict new protocols before they dine in.
Justin Lim has reconfigured his restaurant to cater for low patronage.(ABC News: Marcus Alborn)
The venue can hold up to 300 people, but the biggest change is restricting patronage to no more than 20 guests at a time.
General manager Justin Lim said they had redesigned the layout to ensure social distancing between guests and staff for the foreseeable future.
“But it’ll be up to our team, predominantly our host and the managers on duty together, to make sure that we work in line with those guidelines as well,” he said.
Mr Lim said guests would also be temperature-checked and that returning workers would notice big changes to the restaurant’s operation.
“The scheduling side of things, the kitchen operation, our menu, has to be minimised to be able to make it work, otherwise it’s just not going to be cost-effective,” he said.
Gangnam owner Kuan Sub Lee says it feels like he is starting his business all over again.(ABC News: Marcus Alborn)
Kuan Sub Lee, who owns the Gangnam restaurant nearby, said the new restrictions, while far from business as usual, were a necessity.
“I was building my customers and I feel like I have to do it again,” he said.
The ‘new norm’ for the ‘foreseeable future’
Michael Kidd from the Federal Government team assisting with the COVID-19 response said while a roadmap to recovery had been provided, it would be up to individual businesses to make their own plans for the months ahead.
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“Each business will need to look at what they’re doing and look at the guidance which is being provided and then decide how does that apply to our business,” Professor Kidd said.
“Where people are coming into work [it’s about] making sure that not everyone is coming in at the same time, so that we don’t have crowding in the areas where people come in and out of the business.”
Staggered starts and flexible working arrangements have been recommended, as well as continuing to have staff work remotely where possible.
“It will be for the foreseeable future because we don’t know how long we’re going to be living with COVID-19 in Australia,” he said.
“So, the measures that are put in place now are probably going to be measures which we need to continue to follow for many, many months.”
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