How Do Your Employees Really Feel About Returning to the Office?
By: Jessica Gendron
After spending months at home during the pandemic, employees are more in touch with what they want from their work. As a result, employees have new and increased expectations of their employers and workplaces. Leaders and managers are getting mixed signals as their organizations are beginning to bring staff back into the office, as some employees are anxious to come back while others are resisting.
A recent survey indicates that about 44% of people currently working from home want to continue working remotely, while 54% indicated that they would consider quitting their current job if they are not afforded some flexibility in their workday and work environment. More so, many employees are left wondering why they must go back to an office to do a job they’ve been doing remotely for over 12 months.
Working from their sweatpants and doing laundry during the workday seem like obvious reasons employees would want work from home, but it’s far more complex than that. There are several issues that employees are now forced to consider with “back to the office” mandates from their employers:
- Safety: Having pre-existing health issues, an immune-compromised family member, or small children draw additional concerns for employees who may not want to be exposed to more people (and potentially unvaccinated people) on a regular basis.
- Children: Working from home has allowed families far more flexibility in navigating caretaking responsibilities for their families, but also created a need to be home to care for children who may no longer be able to attend or have access to in-person school or daycare.
- Productivity: Employees have found that working from home allows them to be far more productive, limits distractions from coworkers, and minimizes conflict or interactions with difficult colleagues.
- Commute: In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that the average commute time to work was 25 minutes, heading back to the office means the average American will be spending an hour or more in the car commuting to work every day after 12-18 months commuting less than 50 steps.
- Corporate Culture: Bad cultures may have done a better job “hiding” in the pandemic because employees could limit interactions with problematic leaders or colleagues and were given much more autonomy to get their work done. With returning to the office, employees may realize the company culture is no longer a fit.
These are a limited sample of things employees are considering after working from home for a significant portion of the last year (plus). They also represent a potential attrition problem for your organization, as many of these considerations will cause an employee to start looking for an opportunity that will allow them to work from home.
Leadership should work with managers to get an understanding of how their teams are feeling about returning to the office. Here are some questions leaders and managers might ask to their teams to help leadership plan or adapt a “return to office” strategy.
- How do you feel about returning to office work?
- What have you seen as the benefits to working from home over the last year?
- What are some concerns you might have about returning to in person work?
- What are some things the organization could do to make the transition easier for you?
- What are your employees saying about returning to the office after covid?
- What are some of the anxieties employees have about returning to the office?
- How attitudes about working remote changed among your team since working remotely?
- What is different about your team today (good or bad) since working remotely?
Having employees working remotely for any portion of time during the pandemic, has already drastically changed your culture. In today’s post pandemic business climate, business leaders will need to understand what employees really want and create policies and plans that allow for more flexibility and personalization – one where people can decide how to work, where to work, and when to work.
At The Center for Leadership Excellence, we believe that great leaders and great culture create great organizations. If you desire assistance on assessing employee opinions about returning to the office or building a culture strategy about your return, contact Jessica Gendron.