Returning to the Workplace After COVID
Are you anxious or excited about returning to the workplace now that the COVID pandemic is waning?
I have spent the month of May of 2021 in Austin, Texas. My wife and I are here to get vaccinated and take care of business that must be handled in person. This includes getting my Texas driver’s license renewed.
I made the offer to meet over coffee to just chat and reconnect while here.
I have had almost 20 different people schedule to meet with me.
What surprised me was multiple people told me that I was the first person they had met face to face with since getting vaccinated. Several of these people had been fully vaccinated since January.
I then listened to the Vox Podcast Today Explained, episode Vaccinated! (Still anxious.). Many people will not go back to their old behaviors when the pandemic is over.
I know people who are planning to burn their masks. There are others who actually like the effects of masks like not getting sick. They will likely continue to wear masks.
Others said they will never shake a person’s hand ever again. The thought of touch someone’s grimy hand is now disgusting. I have to admit that I have stopped shaking hands and will probably continue fist-bumping people I meet.
After a year in isolation, some have found they like being alone or with family for at least a significant amount of time. This is why there is a boom in home remodeling.
All of this changing behavior will have an effect on people’s willingness on returning to the workplace.
Returning to the Workplace is not What Many Workers Want
In the Newsweek article, Employees Balk at End to Remote Work: ‘Going Back to the Office Is Stupid” Paul Keegan wrote:
While 83 percent of CEOs want employees to return in person, only 10 percent of employees want to come back full time, according to a study by the Best Practice Institute.
There is a huge disconnect between what employees want and what employers expect of their employees after the pandemic is over.
Why are employees not excited about returning to the workplace?
There are several reasons that primarily focus on freedom. Many parents like the freedom to pick up their children from school. This has been so popular that rush hour has shifted. Check out the Wall Street Journal article Afternoons Are the New Rush Hour in the Suburbs. I even noticed this in Austin when I went to get a haircut in the middle of Friday afternoon and was stuck in traffic on the highway at 3:00 PM. The highway was packed going in both directions.
I was speaking with my financial advisor and he said he gained 8-10 hours a week by not needing to go into the office. He is not excited about returning to the office because he has found he cherished the hours to do other things than work.
Who is Excited about Returning to the Workplace?
People who are excited about returning to the workplace say they want the human connection again. I remember early in the pandemic and lockdown, I was holding weekly zoom calls for people in my community to connect. One person said they wanted to start a business giving hugs. The reaction from the group was infectious.
Many employers want employees back for collaboration and ideation. I can imagine some creatives would really enjoy being back with their team …. some of the time.
In my unscientific surveying of people, there are far more people who want to work remotely most of the time than the other way around.
Anxious About Returning
If you have health issues and have spent the last year concerned about catching the virus, I would fully expect you to be anxious.
I have read multiple articles about how the pandemic has opened up opportunities to the disabled. The ability to work remotely has been a huge benefit and returning to the workplace is not what they want to do.
Returning to a workplace where there are toxic relationships would make anyone anxious.
Returning to the Workplace, Full Time, Part Time or Fully Remote
Even though 83% of CEOs want their employees to return to the workplace full time, that probably will not happen. 1 In 3 Remote Workers May Quit If Required To Return To The Office Full Time, Robert Half Survey Finds. A hybrid work environment is the most likely outcome.
The reality is so many companies have given up their leases on office space that if they want to bring workers back into the office there is no place to go.
I have been a digital nomad for 10 years and cannot imagine returning to the workplace.
Is your employer expecting you to return to the workplace? If they do, will you go?Marc Miller
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Alley Keosheyan says
I’ve been working remotely now for 10+ years, so the “new normal” for me is the “old normal.” Yes, I realize how lucky I am 😉