For many organizations, increased vaccine adoption means that returning to the office is on the horizon. If your organization is thinking about going back to some form of office life, it’s important to consider equity in your decision. Office reopenings shouldn’t be the reason employees consider resigning or searching for other work.
As an organization leader, now is the time to consider what employees are facing to make the right decision for your team members.
Office Reopening Concerns
Office reopenings have employees thinking about The Great Resignation and moving on from their current employment. What are some of the major concerns people have when it comes to getting back to the office? Here are some starters:
Working From Home Is Nice
Let’s face it: being able to work from home has some nice perks. Many people have gotten used to working at home in their own offices, and giving up that freedom isn’t easy for some employees.
Working from home allows employees to avoid things like water cooler chat, which will be a part of going back to work. After so long, there are many small things that could give employees anxiety about returning to the office.
Contrary to popular belief, we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Delta variant has caused another surge in cases while vaccination rates are suffering in many places, it’s become increasingly clear that returning to the office won’t be as easy as we’d hoped.
While you may be keen to get back to the office, empathy for employees is essential during this time.
As an organization leader, you have to be aware of what Covid looks like in your city. Some states and countries have been harder hit than others. Take time to consider how you can ease fears and bring people back to the office with those feelings in mind.
The Future of Work Is Here
Another big concern is that organizations are trying to return to normal without thinking through the workplace they want to have. The future of work is here, and employees have a precise idea of what they will and won’t put up with.
As an organization leader, you may consider other work arrangements like a hybrid or permanent remote work setup. You’ll also want to consider what kind of bonding is required to do a job well. For instance, you might want to move to asynchronous communication for most of your time.
Overall, employees are calling on companies to be intentional about this return to the office.
What Role Does Equity Play At Work?
As organizations grow, equity becomes essential. Many organizations stop at equality, but that doesn’t really address the whole picture.
This image from the Interaction Institute for Social Change helps give more color to the term equity. Equity isn’t about giving the same resources to everyone. Instead, organizations that value equity realize that different groups need different resources to be on a level playing field.
Why You Should Prioritize Equity in Your Office Reopenings
As you are thinking through your office reopenings, you must consider the role of equity in how you choose to show up for your employees.
Office Reopenings Can Put Undue Stress on Employees
The current pandemic has hit employees differently.
When we think about the diversity of people who are employed, some of those individuals are bound to be dealing with things we can’t even begin to comprehend.
For example, you might have employees with weakened immune systems, social anxiety, and other (sometimes) invisible conditions on your roster.
According to the American Psychological Association, Americans aren’t sure about what life will look like once we return to the office. In fact, 49% said that adjusting back to in-person life made them uneasy.
Remote Work Can Improve Workplace Diversity
While remote work can cause some issues with face-to-face communication, there are many positives to working from home.
Remote work allowed some to go to work when they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
- Many introverts probably enjoyed working from home because it offered a change of pace that played into their strengths and skillsets.
- Working from home was welcome for many people of color who could avoid some of the microaggressions and racism experienced when working in the office.
Based on the number of employees who have quit in the last few months, it’s clear that flexibility is required and other voices need to be heard when deciding to open up the office.
COVID Has Put a Lot of Things Outside of Our Control
Let’s be clear: many of your employees are struggling.
Covid has created a global pandemic that has taken more than a year of our lives (and there’s no sign that it’s stopping now.)
With so much out of our control, your staff wants to control what they can. Give them more equity in the decisions you are making around returning to work post-COVID.
What Companies Need to Consider With Office Reopenings
There are so many things employers should think about when it comes to getting back in the office. Here are just a few of them:
- Do you have the resources to come back safely?
- Are your office policies written and agreed upon by your employees?
- Do you have any plans in case you need to close the office down again?
- Do you need to go back to a fully in-office team? Can you mix it up and provide room for a hybrid workforce?
- What is giving you the impression that you need to return to the office now? Are you jumping to conclusions?
It’s important to evaluate the reasons why we are doing what we are doing. Your staff are your people. It’s your job to take care of them and ensure their best interests are served when returning to the office.
Conclusion: Creating an Equitable Workforce When Reopening Offices
Getting back to the office is going to require a lot of work from human resources professionals. It’s challenging, because dealing with pandemic policies is probably not what any HR leader wants to do. Hopefully this article gives you some food for thought as you are thinking about reopening the office.
Equity starts by building bridges and encouraging open conversation. Employee communities can be the perfect place to have those conversations. Check out Workrowd and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we’d be right for your organization.