To be or not to be?
To return to office or not to?
Questions haunting the minds of most employers since a year now. No one has a crystal ball so let's stop pretending we know the exact answers or can predict anything at all.
There are 2 sides to the coin - there are employees that are burnt out working from home and there are those for whom this situation is a dream come true.
But what do employers think? Research CNBC suggests that employers expect more than 50% of their employees to head back to office by September 2021. And that is holding true for a lot of Western countries.
Certain sections of the employee base of most organizations are unable to cope with working virtually as they were used to collaborating and brainstorming in the workplace, especially for functions like sales, marketing, content and strategy teams. Many engineering teams are facing the burden of spending long hours on video calls to come up with a roadmap of their products.
Executive teams are worried about the massive toll it's taking on their key decisions and the amount of time they're investing talking about it. Delayed decisions never go down well with the CEOs. Most employers are torn between wanting to offer flexibility to their employees while also wondering whether they can trust their people to stay productive while working from home. Some may call it a fantasy but the CXO club definitely doesn't.
Social skills have definitely atrophied during this period at home. Presentation skills, body language - all that mattered for closing top dollar sales are no longer a thing. The awkwardness and shyness in meeting people offline has led to an increase in anxiety among many employees.
Working behind screens while being confined to their 4 walls is now part of their comfort zone. Employers are struggling with understanding emotions of their employees, their moodiness too.
The negative effects of remote work are evident in the results of a recent Martec Group survey of more than 1,200 employees nationwide. The survey found that a mere 16 percent of workers were thriving—defined as benefiting from working from home.
There is of course a lot of unrest among the employees that have settled into a quiet life at home saving hours on commute and escaping the fatigue caused by physical meetings. But the truth of it all is that at some point in time employees know that there's going to be a day when they will be called back to office and employers also know that they will have make this tough call soon.
There are some important imperatives that any organization planning to call their employees back will have to consider:
- The safety and mental well being of employees
- Sanitization of workplaces being done regularly
- Policies and guidelines of returning to office
- Identifying employees that are fit to return
- Administration and spatial planning of offices to adhere to social distancing
...among many other factors
Forbes lays doing a thought framework here very comprehensively for employers looking to bring back employees to the office.
Yes, everyone was coping well before the pandemic but the whole shift to a new lifestyle changed everything for most employees. A few happily adapted to the new way of work whereas the others realized the importance of a collaborative office environment.
No matter the conclusion, the real question that looms is for the employees who're looking for safe return to office- how should organizations get about doing it the right way and how soon before the entire office gets filled to capacity again?