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.

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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.”
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Image via PCMag

How Zoom And Other Software Tools Are On The Rise in a Post-Pandemic World

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Image via TechJockey

As the world reopens, many companies have learned that online collaboration works at a lower cost. Moving forward, tech darlings such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex can replace certain in-person meetings in which everyone or half the group traveled. In other words, the future will be more of like a hybrid environment. Some meetings could happen on Zoom, while others will remain better off as in-person.

Many current WFH employees have questioned if conferences will offer options of in-person or virtual. More employees will have the opportunity to attend at a lower price or even at no cost if virtual is a choice. However, many have also complained about developing Zoom fatigue due to burnout/companies overusing or improperly using the software.

Some agreed that there should be adoption and continuation of e-signature platforms in the post-pandemic world. Depending upon circumstances, suggested tech darlings will still have a role to play but at the same time, usage will drop off dramatically if folks seek ways to engage face-to-face.

Firms have also invested a lot in work-from-home infrastructure and they see that employee productivity hasn’t suffered. Moreover, company costs are plummeting as there is no longer a need for real estate. NYC is already seeing a huge decline in office space — leading to its devalue of commercial space. If working from home or remote work will continue into the future, this leads to the reason — finances.
Along the same lines, business travel won’t be coming back anytime soon to the levels that it used to be pre-pandemic — due to financial reasons as well.
A Regional Director at a software company stated that in a way, we are all victims of our own success, because if we weren’t able to conduct business using remote tools and our company’s bottom lines were hurting, we’d all be back on the airplanes tomorrow!

The pandemic has ushered in an era that was always technologically viable for the past decade, but culturally not acceptable. Yesterday’s “office” is not what tomorrow’s “office” will be. Remote work and Zoom is here to stay as we move forward.

For many employees currently working remotely, Zoom fatigue is real however they do not have to face nightmare traffic or the fear of being a few minutes late due to a train delay because of a sick passenger. The quality of life that zero-commuting hours have provided is not something that many want to give up.
Productivity has turned out to much higher for certain folks on a Zoom call when they do not have to pay attention to the portion of the meeting that doesn’t apply to them.
In addition, Zoom’s turning on/off camera feature allows folks to gain control over their participation level while yesterday’s “office” meetings did not give them that option.

Let’s put it this way — face-to-face has mostly qualitative benefits. Zoom and other tech darlings have more quantitative benefits as you can put a cost savings on how many less miles you have traveled, how much less utilities are being spent, etc. Many companies that were opposed to remote work are now implementing it as a standard form of work.
Even in the event that the current generation of business leaders usher in the return to offices and lead to a drop off of Zoom and other tech darlings, tomorrow’s business leaders (not to mention — the one’s that are more tech savvy), won’t forget that they could accomplish a lot of their work remotely.
In other words, Zoom and other tech darlings may face a slight drop off in the short-term, but their long-term future is looking bright.

All in all, companies will need to balance cost with profitability. So far, we have mentioned that there are folks with both sides of the spectrum.
There are those who feel that they need to have everybody in a room for brainstorming future projects and can’t get what they need done via Zoom meetings.
Then there are those who say in-person group meetings were a waste of time, and they can get much more done with a quick Zoom meeting where folks can say their part and tune out/leave if there are parts of the meeting that they are not accountable for.
Additionally, while some folks enjoy commuting to work, they will not want to spend wasted hours in traffic, so having a flexible and hybrid schedule kind of option would be beneficial to both parties.

This also leads to a theory that some folks have believed that while there will be some companies that will continue to allow their employees to work remotely, they are hoping that the option will become part of a company’s “benefits” package. This could be part of the new market as many job seekers are seeking remote positions.
Many businesses found Zoom to be a huge asset to them as their customer pool has expanded globally instead of locally, which helped their business grow immensely during the pandemic.
Even if some companies reduce their usage of Zoom, there are families who have adopted that software to stay in touch with loved ones at a distance.

Eventually, a return to workplaces and classrooms will decrease the need for Zoom meetings. However, the pandemic also showed so many companies how to do business with minimal travel travel and office costs — and this learning will continue to drive the market in many ways.

The Remote Work World For The Younger Generations

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Now that working from home is a safety measure for the nation, this is a good time to scale tools, resources and people. It is an opportunity to have good, quality work done versus policing when and where. Of course, this cannot be done in all sectors/industries but wherever possible, it should be considered.

This is the time to figure out how everyone, not just future generations but also older generations, experienced and inexperienced can thrive in this rapidly changing labor market. The economy is becoming flatter and stagnant, so that will account for slower growth in many organizations.

It is immensely challenging for new hires and job seekers to make connections, regardless of age. And this especially applies to folks who are left with increased childcare responsibilities due to COVID-19 mandated school closures. With this new structure of a global online presence, everything has to be scheduled and pre-planned, including opportunities needed to socialize.

Now, how will this affect the Generation Z? Young individuals typically like to socialize and enjoy being around other individuals. However, the remote learning is causing a massive isolation — leaving them feeling stranded and lost with no plans or road map to guide them. We are losing teenagers to increased depression and suicidal rates as this is affecting their mental health.

Generally, it is hard to fathom a majority of individuals at age, to thrive in the “new normal”. We are humans that are wired for connecting/interacting face-to-face. Young individuals are grown into a highly connected and social interactive environment. The fully shifted remote work and learning can create a regimented, limiting experience for all. Feeling less connected may drive self-initiative and self reliance further and faster.

However in a way, Generation Z’s are able to thrive during this time with their digital literacy as they have grown up surrounded by technology which shows that they are capable of and more equipped for remote work, networking and learning.

For 2020 graduates — they might be able to handle this new normal of remote and digital based working, but many do not have jobs yet and are still struggling to find them. But why? Remote work can present so many opportunities and open up roles for those who do not need to be locate in that specific region to work there. However, it seems that many employers are still hiring based on a candidate’s competencies, abilities and talents rather than where they are physically located. This poses a disadvantage for recent grads with limited to no experience, since this limits their options.

A Gen Z student (’97) who has recently graduated from Hunter College, City University of New York on May 2020 says, “Upon my graduation, I recently enrolled into this program called COOP in which it is geared toward finding employment for people, and I have recognized that it is more difficult now to find a job than it might have been before. A lot of places have let their employees go, and/or started hiring freezes as well as promotional freezes. Other than that, you also have the consequence of having to do everything from home and I don’t personally live in the most ideal environment for working from home, as I imagine that this is the same for many others too.”

He argues that this remote work option is affecting him and individuals his age because they are hiring selectively based on experience/skills. “A lot of organizations will recognize that they don’t actually need as much office space as they currently have, so many places will be inclined to keep the WFH model or at least offer it as an alternative. This means you can apply to more jobs now than you might have been able to before since you won’t be limited geographically. However, this also creates more competition for every job seeker out there because we want to take this opportunity to be challenged and learn something new — but the job descriptions say otherwise. It seems like they do not want to welcome this opportunity to recent grads like us.”

The job search process has been increasingly overwhelming and stressful for young generations, however don’t lose motivation, or quit. Job seekers often give up easily. Remember why you started in the first place. Your purpose in life is to find your purpose. Stay patient and trust the journey that you’re taking. You will eventually get a job.


Your age doesn’t matter. It’s your energy and determination.

Cordia Harrington, Founder and CEO of The Bakery Cos

Going forward, employers need to implement new ways to reduce the risk of digital overwhelm and effective onboarding for new hires. They should provide a framework for remote work to help the younger generations adapt to the environment. This has to be taught instead of expecting them to find their own rhythm and process — and to do this, the employer needs to invest in those supportive tools, channels and a structured plan in place to enhance collaboration and communication.

In a Post-Pandemic World: Best Practices on Improving Virtual Employee Engagement

Looking to better understand how HR and leaders/managers are engaging their teams and keeping morale positive with the COVID-19 pandemic upon us all?
I have outlined some of the best practices for maintaining virtual employee engagement while we are all working from home.

Virtual team building activities are a wonderful engagement tool – such as leading an interesting ice breaker, which can help improve the lack of communication that some colleagues/team members may have, especially since working from home now can be isolating and depressing for many of us. This really helps colleagues spend time together to enjoy and reduce stress.
This is a good tactic for team members, leaders and managers to organize – to drive employee motivation and engagement, and an effective way to get everyone to know each other personally and professionally – and even learn from each other’s innovative ideas.
To ensure its success, during the team meetings (smaller groups), leaders and managers should have each team member take turns to come up with an ice breaker before the next meeting. That way, everyone has a chance to participate and can contribute to something.
In staff meetings (larger groups), leaders and managers should come up with a different kind of virtual activity that will boost everyone’s productivity. It is a great warm up for the brain before getting into serious discussions – such as guessing games like Trivia and Taboo.
The only uncertainty to this approach is settling with the right activity for everyone in the meeting because not every employee will enjoy the game.

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  • Creating an online leeway is also another way of engaging and motivating employees during this time. There should be leisure time for employees where they can discuss freely on non-work related stuff. Remember, we are humans and not robots. We need leisure activities to help us maintain a great work-life balance that will positively impact our mindsets, in such a way where we can invest in our physical and mental health. This also helps employees create a sense of community by reducing the sensation of social distancing.
  • Below are some ideas of virtual leisure activities where employees can network and connect with their teammates on both a personal and professional level. The most popular platforms to host these events would be Zoom or Google Meet.
    ☻ Virtual Lunch Meetings
    ☻ Virtual Wellness Programs (Workout Sessions, Dance Lessons, Yoga/Meditation Classes, Ergonomics, Talent Shows, Karaoke)
    ☻ Virtual Hackathons
    ☻ Virtual Happy Hour
    ☻ Virtual Community Engagement Events
    ☻ Virtual Team Retreats
    ☻ Virtual Zoom Workshops/Organized Discussions
    > Show and Tell: Employees sharing a favorite object/memory and explaining the importance of it to others
    > Interactive training to increase employee development
    > Guess The Person: Employees can quiz their colleagues and figure out who’s who

    Of course, every organization has a different perspective and their own ways of proposing their team building communication tools. For more inspiration and creative ideas that you may want to engage your team members in, check out this article on SnackNation which provides 52 Virtual Team Building Activities To Boost Remote Employee Morale In 2020.

    Virtual office hours can bring employees closer together and connect in real time. You want to first establish a communication tool that works best with your team. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced employees to work from home. This gives them the freedom to work flexibly and stay connected to their work regardless of time and location.
    Clear your schedule and give 3-5 hours a week of your availability to catch up with colleagues to answer any urgent questions/issues that they may have regarding a task/project, OR to just even chat.
    The best team communication tools at the moment that I’ve been hearing are: Slack, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Skype, Trello and Google Meet / Google Hangouts. They are completely free of cost to use and especially beneficial for non-profits. However, there are more resources below that you are not limited to:

    The 15 Best Internal Communication Tools (via ContactMonkey)
    Best online collaboration software of 2020: paid and free tools for work sharing and communication (via TechRadar)
Image via Shutterstock

Maintain visibility with your supervisors, team, collaborators and upper management. It is crucial to keep them up to date with what you are working on since there is no micromanagement when working from home. It isn’t as easy as those days where your supervisor was just a cubicle away from you and can come to check in on you whenever convenient. This is a good way to maintain effective communication (face-to-face via Zoom) – not only in staying up to date with team projects, tasks and meeting deadlines, but this also gives supervisors a chance to track your progress and be there to guide you on whatever challenges you may have. The key to a robust workforce and effective employee engagement is to ensure that their contributions and industriousness are being acknowledged. Recognizing their hard work and achievements, propels and motivates employees in delivering the best results.

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Watch your tone (especially when you are not communicating face-to-face).
One of the biggest drawbacks of written communication is miscommunication. This can trigger misunderstandings and misinterpretations between the sender (you) and the recipient (them). Normally, many of us use visual and verbal cues when communicating face-to-face, which adds meaning to the things we say – and that includes our body languages, hand gestures and facial expressions. However, since everything has shifted to remote work, the lack of these signals can cause our messages to come across as rude or something that we did not intend it to be. We should be mindful that as we are emailing others, it can be helpful to humanize and illuminate the tone of these messages through our clarifications. I suggest that adding a smiley face emoji and starting off the email with a warm tone such as, “I hope this email finds you, your coworkers and your loved ones safe and well during these uncertain times” can really lighten up the mood of a message.

Start a blog and create weekly posts. RECOGNITION. Highlight employee achievements. Include employee and client testimonials and stories. This does not only promote employer branding and visibility, but this is also the main strategy in maintaining employee retention as it makes them feel more connected to their organization. According to Impraise, when a manager takes time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments it can motivate, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes. Similarly, with the rise of project teams and more collaborative workplaces, it’s also important to create a culture where positive peer feedback is exchanged amongst the people you work most closely with.

Last but not least, please don’t forget to take mini breaks, short walks and practice on self-care. It is super important for all of us to catch up on self-care during times like this. It is okay to give yourself permission to pause and clear up your mind. Remember, it is not selfish to take the time for yourself.

… If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.

Dalai Lama