- May 20, 2022
- Posted by: James Haggerty
- Category: Employee Development
COVID-19 has been an overbearing constant in our lives since early 2020. School closings, delayed family events, and an overall sense of confusion regarding daily life started to dictate how the world operated for the next two years. Seemingly overnight, the world went from hustling and bustling to slowed down, standing seemingly still. One of the biggest ways that COVID helped redefine the workplace was the embrace of working from home, and now, well into 2022, many companies are calling employees back to the office.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, bosses have been more concerned about limiting exposure and contact between coworkers, so a shift in attitudes towards working from home has created a seemingly safer environment for employees. Zoom meetings have started to replace conference rooms, and “work attire” has turned into “business casual from the waist up,” so engaging employees and encouraging them to return to the office after COVID might be hard.
Although employees nationwide have reported an increase in their ability to appropriately manage their work-life balance, personal connections between employees have drastically dropped, which can lead to an overall lack of communication and coordination for various projects and proposals. Pew Research Center (2022). COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America. (2022, February 16). Pew Social Trends. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading Now, faced with these bigger hurdles in terms of coordination, employers are once again encouraging workers to come back to the office, and this is how they’ve been going about bringing employees back:
Why Do Companies Want Employees Back in the Office?
Although the flexibility of working from home has its advantages, it can impact some lesser emphasized parts of the job that make a huge impact on employee performance. For example, although employees have appreciated more time at home to care for pets or work in some exercise during their breaks, taking the time to complete these tasks can run over break times due to unforeseen issues. In addition, taking a pet outside or exercising sporadically can interrupt important meetings or break focus when working on important projects. Some of the biggest areas that benefit from in-person work include the following.
Being at home can be one of the biggest distractions faced by employees. From pets to roommates and family, having a space that’s shared with different important recreation activities or fun outlets can be distracting. Anything from the mailman upsetting a dog to noise coming from kids playing outside can create unnecessary tension that will inevitably affect an employee’s workday. Adding more stress can absolutely affect performance. Being in an office and having a dedicated workspace is a great motivating factor for getting work done, especially in terms of creating a healthy work-life balance.
One of the biggest consequences of the pandemic was a decrease in in-person communication and a sense of familiarity and comradery with coworkers. This can be a major benefit to resuming in-office operations. Lunch with coworkers, holding office-wide birthday parties, and planning company holiday celebrations and parties are all beneficial to creating a strong, cohesive team. Trying to get to know employees in a virtual setting, especially when you’re exclusively virtual, is awkward, and is nowhere as meaningful as in-person interactions.
When employees are only communicating virtually, important memos or requests can get lost in stuffed inboxes. This can cause frustration in terms of deadline completion or overall project coordination. In person, walking into an office or conversation with a person at a neighboring desk can help facilitate direct lines of communication between workers. In-person collaboration on different projects is often much easier to handle than long email threads.
Overall Health and Wellness
Although seemingly counterproductive, considering that COVID-19 is a physical illness, the benefits of working around others can be mentally and emotionally stimulating. In addition, there are additional mental health benefits. Break time in the break room or planning office-wide outings can be morale-boosting for workers, especially when you’re celebrating any achievements made by your employees.
Beyond the social interaction of being in the office, having access to different office supplies or equipment that might not be available for in-home use can be extremely helpful for organization and. From important legal documents that need physical signatures to easy access to information Technology (IT) services, the office becomes a tool needed to increase workflow and productivity.
Working from home may seem like a favorable alternative to office life but taking away access to these vital parts of the job can end up hindering employees rather than helping them get their jobs done efficiently. In the office, your employees can be completely focused, get access to fast, up-to-date information on tasks, and have the full social and mental benefits of a social environment that typically accompanies a workspace, with the addition of functioning facilities to help foster more productivity.
How Companies Are Handling the Pandemic
Although some companies are not going back to the office just yet, being able to plan for the return of in-person staffing is extremely important. With safety as a number-one priority, ensuring that your staff is safe and fit to return to work after a prolonged period of working from home is not only reassuring for them, but also for you as the employer to know that your staff members are safe. Some of the most notable ways companies are encouraging a safe return to work include the following.
Johnson and Johnson
In order to encourage employee return to the office, Johnson and Johnson has introduced a wave-based approach for bringing employees back to the office. Starting with Wave 0, which is their essential workers who remained on site throughout the pandemic, the company aims to bring employees back in numbered waves one through four, hoping to bring all employees back by the end of the fourth wave. Johnson & Johnson, (2020). Protecting Employees. 2020 Johnson & Johnson Health for Humanity Report. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading
Before returning to work, IBM has been encouraging their employees to complete a survey indicating their personal preferences surrounding the pandemic, and were asked about their work-life balance, benefits, promotion opportunities, and overall sense of stability in regards to working in person. By creating an open, honest, and supportive system for employees to connect with executives, IBM was able to effectively gauge employee feedback about returning to work, helping each employee feel recognized and appreciated in their role. IBM (2021).What employees expect in 2021. IBM Thought Leadership Institute. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading
After years of working remotely, executives at Disney are still working on a comprehensive plan for their return to the office, using national health guidelines, and have already encouraged self-monitoring health practices as a framework for their analysis. As with any remote working situation such as this, the lack of in-person communication has led executives to create a plan for their team’s return to work. In addition to these developments, Disney has given employees extra vacation time to help them cope with the stress of the pandemic, giving back some much-needed family time. Andreeva, N. (2022). Disney Employees Getting Two Extra Days Off To “Recharge” As Company Gears Up For Return To Office. Deadline. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading
During the early stages of the pandemic, Target made an effort to prioritize retail employee safety by implementing their SAFE Retail Framework, which included Screening for COVID, Access to healthcare, Face covering mandates, and Enhanced safety measures, all helping to keep retail employees from spreading the disease. Target Corporation (2020). Target SAFE Retail Considerations. Target Corporate Handbook. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading After using this system, Target’s corporate offices began to roll out plans for a hybrid office model, hoping to both accommodate employees who chose to remain working from home and provide those looking to return to the office the ability to resume in-person work. Maurer, R. (2022). Target Goes Permanently Hybrid. SHRM. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/target-goes-permanently-hybrid.asp
During their push to get employees to return to work, Morgan Stanley chief executive officer James Gorman wanted to emphasize the importance that returning to work had on the skill set of his employees, hoping to bring them back to the office as a way to promote productivity and overall job enhancement. Jones, S. (2022). Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman Urges Bankers Back to the Office. Business Insider. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from … Continue reading By fostering an environment aimed at increasing productivity, Morgan Stanley is helping employees stay involved with their work without the stress and pressure brought on by external factors at home that would lessen their productivity.
Beyond these measures, encouraging proper handwashing, self-checking, and even vaccines can be major contributors toward helping to create a safe workplace for your employees. OSHA standards help to keep employees safe from a physical standpoint. However, from a mental standpoint, knowing that the boss has a plan to keep everyone safe, especially in such unsure times, is sure to make employees feel appreciated for the work that they do, especially when coming back to the office. Fragala, M. S., Goldberg, Z. N., & Goldberg, S. E. (2021). Return to work: managing employee population health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Population Health Management, 24(S1), S-3. … Continue reading
Will Workers Return to the Office?
Wondering if we will ever see a full return to the office? The short answer is yes. Not only is being in the office good for a sense of comradery and connectedness between staff, but it can also overall help improve the morale of employees by letting them have a workspace dedicated to helping them stay focused and increase productivity.
More safeguards and regular check-ins from management about personal well-being are the best way to simultaneously keep your staff safe while helping them cope with such a strange time. With the widespread availability of vaccines, along with guidelines put into place to help sick employees stay home, coming back to the office does not have to be intimidating.
Get Ready for Your Employees to Return
Although COVID hasn’t gone away completely, it’s still possible to come together in person and stay safe while doing so. Mask mandates, vaccine advocacy, and regular health checks are all amazing tools available to employers for encouraging their staff to stay safe. Making sure to always encourage self-monitoring for symptoms, as well as safety guidelines around sanitization and personal contact become top priorities, so getting employees back into the office can go off without a hitch.
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|↑1||Pew Research Center (2022). COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America. (2022, February 16). Pew Social Trends. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/02/16/covid-19-pandemic-continues-to-reshape-work-in-america/|
|↑2||Johnson & Johnson, (2020). Protecting Employees. 2020 Johnson & Johnson Health for Humanity Report. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://healthforhumanityreport.jnj.com/united-in-defeating-covid-19/protecting-employees|
|↑3||IBM (2021).What employees expect in 2021. IBM Thought Leadership Institute. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/employee-expectations-2021|
|↑4||Andreeva, N. (2022). Disney Employees Getting Two Extra Days Off To “Recharge” As Company Gears Up For Return To Office. Deadline. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://deadline.com/2022/04/disney-employees-extra-days-off-recharge-return-to-office-1235007851/|
|↑5||Target Corporation (2020). Target SAFE Retail Considerations. Target Corporate Handbook. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://corporate.target.com/_media/TargetCorp/about/pdf/Target_SAFE_Retail_Considerations-for-Retail-Operations-Post-COVID-19.pdf|
|↑6||Maurer, R. (2022). Target Goes Permanently Hybrid. SHRM. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/target-goes-permanently-hybrid.asp|
|↑7||Jones, S. (2022). Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman Urges Bankers Back to the Office. Business Insider. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.com/morgan-stanley-ceo-james-gorman-urges-bankers-return-to-office-2022-3|
|↑8||Fragala, M. S., Goldberg, Z. N., & Goldberg, S. E. (2021). Return to work: managing employee population health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Population Health Management, 24(S1), S-3. https://doi.org/10.1089/pop.2020.0261|