Returning To The Office = Uncertainty?

After months to a year of remote work, many have felt uncertain about returning to their office due to not wanting to pay for commuting expenses, waking up a few hours early to look for parking space, etc. We all know that WFH is cost effective, it reduces overhead and creates a happier work environment. But there are also some who feel excited and recharged to go back into the office, as there are those who are far more productive in a stimulating work environment rather than at home where there are always reasons to procrastinate/be distracted.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Some 43% of 1,046 remote workers surveyed by insurer Prudential in March said they’d be nervous about their job security if they stayed home while others returned to in-person. Yet the data indicates many of us really don’t want to go back, at least not every day. Nearly nine out of 10 workers in the same survey said they want to work from home at least once a week after the pandemic subsides; one in three said they wouldn’t work for a company that forced them to be on-site full-time.


How serious is your company about remote work?

Will staying home hurt your chances for promotion? Will leaders reverse course in a year, ordering you back? Tips on reading the risk, from professor Ashley Whillans:

Office downsizing: If your company is shedding real estate, that could be a sign that it’s committed to a flexible model of working.

Hiring from afar: Are new employees from around the country onboarding into fully remote roles? Or has the company been focusing on recruiting local talent in the past several months? If it’s the latter, executives might be switching gears.

Signals from the boss: Pay attention to what leaders are doing, not saying. “Do you see your bosses Zooming in from their offices?” Dr. Whillans asks.

Subtle perks: Is your company offering things like free lunch to those who come back? That’s a sign they want you there.

Should You Go Back to the Office? — Wall Street Journal Article

This can be a big thing to consider for employees who have relocated to another area to be closer to their family.

https://assets.entrepreneur.com/content/3x2/2000/1593532666-GettyImages-1248900431.jpg
Image via Entrepreneur

Here’s what others are saying:

  • “Any company that doesn’t offer a WFH option for positions that were able to be effectively executed in WFH mode during COVID lockdowns will lose significant amounts of talent. It makes no sense to impose draconian “be in the office” rules if productivity was not affected. Anecdotally many businesses found productivity went up! And if you factor in potential savings in office space, utilities, parking space, and so on, there’s even room for a 5-10% reduction in productivity and still being better off with a WFH model.”
  • “COVID fast-forwarded how we work by decades. It proved that working from home wasn’t just possible, it proved that it worked well. For myself, and many that I know, going back to an office is a deal-breaker.
    The biggest pro, for me, is it gives me back up to 2 hours per day that I would have otherwise wasted sitting in traffic. I can use that time to get a jump on the day, be more productive, or just get some extra rest when I need it. This alone has dramatically improved my quality of life.”
  • “If you desire to switch careers, now is the time.
    If you desire to go into business for yourself, now is the time.
    If you want to work for a company that has what you need, now is the time.
    If you want to go back into office to your old professional life, now is the time.
    Whatever you decide, now is the time to do it. Just approach it as a respected business partner on your way in… or on your way out.”
  • “It’s already happening in many ‘essential’ places.
    The fulfillment centers is where one can probably see that ‘Great Resignation’ taking place right now, as many workers are leaving these jobs for other opportunities, preferably ones with more favorable working conditions.
    Through the worst of this pandemic, many ‘essential employers out there only paid ‘lip service’ to combating COVID-19 at their workplace and I know one ‘essential’ employer out there in the Reno area where they initially undertook a response to alert all employees when they discovered new cases in their workforce blasting out voicemail to all employees, only to abandon it because people called in sick the next day.
    A lot of ‘essential’ employers out there treated their workforce as nothing more than ‘pawns’ in a chess game to the point that many workers got fed up and left when the next opportunities presented themselves… There’s only so much mandatory overtime people will put up with and so much abuse, like making people work in a Reno-area warehouse filled smile from California wildfires and doing nothing to monitor the air or even filter the inside air to clean out the smoke so it doesn’t irritate people’s eyes, throat and lungs as they work.”
  • “I haven’t worked in an office setting in almost a decade. WFH is way better. If you need to come into the office for an important meeting, that is one thing, but showing up everyday to sit in a designated place to do the same job in the same way you can from your home makes no sense. And if this pandemic has demonstrated one thing, it is that with the availability of Zoom and other digital interfaces, face to face sales is not really that crucial to the overall outcome of the sales process. The days of firm handshakes, 3 martini lunches and power ties are over. It doesn’t take any of that to close a deal. Offering a good service/product at a reasonable price and then DELIVERING are what makes a business/salesperson successful. Not showing up and knocking on doors. That is 20th century stuff and we’re living in a 21st century world.”
  • “Anyone quitting to prioritize their health should not be judged. There are great ways to earn a living these days without having to rely on this old paradigm of an in person 9-5 requirement.”
  • “There are a lot of unemployed people still. Particularly women (including older women), instead of countless articles focusing on how ’employed’ people don’t want to go back to the office (for understandable reasons in some cases) and nurturing of those workers, how about sending a little love to us unemployed folks?
    All I ever hear is how the unemployed ‘aren’t motivated to go back to work’ because of a $300 supplement, which barely helps me pay my health insurance. I’m ‘lazy’ because I don’t yet want to give up on my career as a C-Level Executive Assistant because no one wants to hire me for the job I’m qualified to do.
    And yet unemployed folks are being reasonable and justified in demanding they be able to do their work at home or else. (Again I’m not against this choice but with so many unemployed people maybe if you don’t want to go into the office, someone else will. Imagine how this all sounds to someone who is truly struggling to pay bills). How about my mental health and well-being? Trust me if you are an EA who doesn’t want to go back to the office, I’ll do that for you. And I loved working from home but if it’s not a choice, it’s not a choice.”
  • “If your job doesn’t require you to interface with the public, what’s the problem about working from home? I can take my work home, and only go in for meetings. I just need access to the cloud and the Microsoft Teams account. I can get access to email. Traveling to work is a cost.”
    • “I agree! It’s a mindset shift by many employers, though. People are used to physical oversight – in my honest opinion, if you don’t trust your employee, why hire them in the first place?”
  • “This is an interesting topic for those fortunate to work from home. It has been a rough year working from home but there are many positives, as well. Many companies didn’t do well in keeping company culture going during the pandemic. With jobs opening and potential flex environments, what could employers provide employees to get them to stay?”
  • “Companies that were mindful of company culture and the employee experience before the pandemic were more likely able to pivot when the pandemic hit. Companies that were/are less mindful of such things were already in a hole, and the pandemic deepened that hole. With that in mind, companies in the latter situation are going to need bigger overtures to keep employees.”
    • “An excellent point! Many organizations take their culture for granted.”
  • “I can’t get past the guy wearing a mask in his own home office. Beyond that, we are seeing people leaving positions for remote jobs, leaving the uncertainty of maybe staying remote versus a sure thing. It is worth it to some to bet on a new company versus betting on having to go back in the office. With that said, people need to work or will need to work once the government stops extending unemployment, so I think those companies who do better with office employees versus remote will do so, and other companies that have found equal to or greater success may opt for the remote.”
  • “I believe there is an impending great resignation on the horizon as everyone has been evaluating what is important to them over the past year. I also believe for those staying put, when you return to the office it will be like meeting your colleagues for the first time all over again. The people you knew and worked with are forever changed for their unique experience over the past year.
    Whether you decide to return to your current position’s office or decide to try something new, don’t forget every person experienced a life altering change in some way. Have some patience, and extend some grace. Even if you ‘know’ someone they have been fighting silent personal battles that shape who they are now. Conferences will be different, team meetings will be different, expect to learn together anew.”
  • “Existing employee can become a fast Exiting employee. What happens when they leave in droves? Honesty solicited should be both ways. If a company chooses to bury its head in the ground and not address the real reason why TALENT leaves, they will soon face the constant turnstile before it eternally known that the organization is toxic. That leads to wider gaps in consistency (in program and service) which throws off any possibility of higher level strategic planning and subsequent achievement right out the door. If your organization relies on human beings (particularly high performing ones) treat and value them as such.”
  • “Anytime I speak to someone who is ready to give in their notice I ask them two questions:
    1. Do you have a job lined up?
    2. If not, do you have 3-6 months of bills saved up in case the job search takes that long?
    I get it, you want to quit, you are tired and frustrated.
    Or you don’t want to commute 30+ minutes to work just to show a senior leader you are working.
    With the pandemic and people talking about ‘back to work’ because you know we have all been on vacation for the last year.
    You absolutely have the right to look for an all remote position. But don’t quit before you have a job.
    On average a job search can take few weeks to few months. Do you have that much money saved for bills? Or someone who can support you?
    Start with your job search. Still show up everyday at your job as if you don’t have any intention of leaving.”
https://i.pcmag.com/imagery/articles/022RtDR3pK3YShoskNnL5Dc-1..1603813687.jpg
Image via PCMag