As preventive measures during the pandemic, offices have restricted team lunches, physical meetings and casual gatherings
On a normal day, Apu never eats his lunch alone.
His office has a small dining room that can accommodate upto eight people.
It is difficult for everyone to fit into that tiny space – still Apu and his colleagues will not miss having these meals together.
"This is our favourite part of the day. We share food, laughter and jokes over lunch," he said.
But now, things are different. In the last one week, Apu has not shared any food with his colleagues. He barely left his desk.
Tojjur Rahman Apu is currently employed as the chief operating officer of Zanala Bangladesh Limited, a private advertising agency based in Dhaka.
On May 30, he posted a group selfie on his Facebook timeline. The caption reads: "In office after almost 70 days."
The photo had four other colleagues in it, all of whom were wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
"It felt like going home after more than two months," he told this correspondent, adding that after years of working together, his colleagues have become like his family members.
But as coronavirus cases are increasing every day, most of the staff in his company is still working from home.
All offices in the country closed their doors after the government declared general holidays from March 26 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apu has been working from home around the same time.
On May 27, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain announced that the government would not to extend the general holidays after May 30.
Azahar Hossain is an assistant director of training wing at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He started going to the office since the shutdown was lifted.
While talking to The Business Standard, Azahar pointed out the protocols that his office is maintained to ensure the highest safety for its staff.
"Only 25 percent of staff members are coming to work, that too on a roster basis, and the rest are working from home," he told this correspondent.
He also said that authorities have taken extra measures amid the pandemic.
"We enter the office after passing through several screening steps. For example, our shoes are sprayed with disinfectant and our body temperature is checked before we board the elevator. Only four people are allowed in the elevator at a time. Before rushing to our desks, we sanitise our hands. Wearing masks and gloves has been made mandatory and almost everyone remains seated without moving around much."
Azahar also said meetings are mostly taking place online and urgent matters are being sorted over the phone.
"We are avoiding physical contact as much as possible. Right now, everyone is eating lunch at their desks," he added.
The economy woke up from a deep slumber on May 31 – the same day when the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reported 40 deaths from Covid-19 in the country.
Head of Sales at Platform Solutions Ltd Ashikur Rahman shared with this correspondent that the pandemic has changed his office environment forever.
He said, "Only key people are coming to the office while the rest are working from home. The accounts section comes on alternate days and those who do not have personal vehicles are getting office transport."
"It is not that we have totally given up our office chit-chat sessions. Though these are mostly work-related, we still have our discussions by maintaining social distance," he said.
He also said that gossips over lunch and smoke breaks have almost disappeared from his workplace.
"It was always a pleasant environment at the office, where we could take breaks, eat together, and release a bit of pressure. But now it is just work and nothing else," he said.
But the economy could not stand still any longer and hence the government decided to kick start it.
Some public health experts and economists opposed the idea, fearing that opening offices would contribute to spreading the virus.
As the rate of infection is going up, many offices are walking the extra mile to ensure their workers' safety.
Managing Director of Step Footwear Shamim Kabir has provided PPE to all his staff members at the head office in Uttara and at factories on the outskirts of the capital.
"Businesses need to reopen and we have no other option. All we need to do is take enough precautions so that everyone is safe," he said.
Shamim also said that the shutdown helped him to connect better with his staff. Most of the meetings are now taking place over Zoom and discussions are happening over instant messaging.
"A few people are coming to work and getting office transport. We have given them PPEs and other safety gears. Others are working from home. But, all of us are connected through the internet. This way, we are working better," he added.
But he also mentioned reduced efficiency while working from home.
"The other day, I called one of my staff during working hours only to find that he was out getting groceries. We are not used to working from home and sometimes such problems are occurring. Some people are not fully focused and are taking longer than usual for an assignment," he told this correspondent.
Retail Operations Head at Yellow, a concern of Beximco, Hadi Chowdhury echoed with Shamim Kabir.
Yellow's corporate office in Banani has only a few employees. But still, they have taken the utmost precautions.
"We are not allowing any visitors and meetings with buyers are happening online. But if anyone needs to visit us physically, they will have to make an appointment," he said.
Hadi also said that internal team meetings are taking place in their spacious conference room by maintaining proper distance.
Having team lunches, bringing food from outside and spending time in the smoking zone has been strictly prohibited.
The coronavirus has changed the way we work and also how we behave with our friends and peers, he said, adding that regardless of working from home or office, we are mostly dependant on digital technology at the moment.