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Going Back?

We asked more than 500 senior executives what they were most looking forward to when they return to the office, a staggering 28% of them said “Nothing.” Many said that they simply find their work environment unmotivating and can work better at home.

After a year of WFH, many people are genuinely worried about returning to their offices. They feel a real sense of dread and anxiety about wasting hours in traffic, or on crowded public transport, paying for overpriced lunches and not spending enough quality time with their families.

But for how long will employers remain flexible?

Very soon I suspect many will start to demand that people return – and quickly. David Solomon, the Goldman Sachs CEO, called remote work, “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.” And Amazon told its employees that it expected, “to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”. Office-centric – now that is an interesting way to define your culture.

Some employers are actively preaching the gospel of flexibility – being overtly receptive to concerns and appreciating that the free time given by the pandemic is something their employees are simply unwilling to relinquish

Not wanting to lose great people, some companies have spent the past year trying out different models, to figure out which one works best.

Whether that’s allowing a hybrid of WFH and in-office work, or treating the office as a clubhouse where you gather for specific reasons, there are lots of innovative ways to approach this transition that keep both employee preferences and productivity in mind.

But most organizations still seem to be struggling with what will actually work best. There is however a rare opportunity to rethink formerly rigid conceptions of what an ‘office-centric’ culture should be.

There is no doubt that for some people, return-to-office anxiety is real.

It is important that businesses take steps to support their staff to feel safe when returning to work.

Avoiding a knee-jerk approach to reopening and strictly dictating when employees come back, and on what terms, might just be the safest option for everyone.

 

Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK

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