Butler & Davis Consulting LLC

Back To The Office

It has been two years since the pandemic began and the world has gone back to work…with ‘conditional’ requirements’. Companies have gradually announced they are headed back  to the office this year but haven’t released details as to how they will transition the return. 

Millions of Americans were forced to go fully remote in 2020 thinking they would return in two weeks. Before we knew it the entire country shut down for months on end. Businesses closed, thousands of Americans lost their jobs, children weren’t able to go to school and you had to merge your work life with your homelife. We became creative in the ways we lived by teaching remotely, buying local products to support small businesses and working by virtual meetings and instant message. If you were lucky enough, your social life consisted of the people who lived in the same house as you. If you lived alone the isolation became unbearable. People around the world felt the strains of the pandemic and for once we all related to the same feeling of dreading the unknown. 

We have gradually re-opened the country through mask mandates, covid testing, staying 6ft apart all the while continuing to distance ourselves from family and friends. We have conformed to the new regulations we need to follow in order to live our lives as we once did.  

Transition

 Now two years later, companies have reopened the topic of returning to the office and the majority is asking ‘why’? We have adapted to our new reality and employees and employers have seen productivity rise, cost of office building maintenance has decreased and more organizations have accepted a full time remote style of employment. Going forward, why would we want to go back to work if the future is remote. 

Employees and employers see the world differently. That disconnect is having lots of effects. For one thing, it’s sharpening a labor shortage that had been slowly brewing. It is also causing owners and occupiers of real estate to rethink the role of the office” (Matt Kraven, et. al, 2022). 

It is no secret that the majority of the working class has grown to love working from home, working remotely and working from anywhere really. Yet some have to face the actuality of a mandatory ‘back to office’ full time ultimatum. ‘The Great Resignation’ is in full effect with the new generation demanding respect and empathy towards this tribulating time from the large corporations that employ them.

The transition going back to an office is going to be just as difficult as it was leaving. This emphasizes the need for a gradual shift such as hybrid style work weeks for companies who want employees to be onsite. Providing this flexibility will give employees time to re-organize their lives while also maintaining their work schedule. Hybrid work weeks can range from 1-3 days a week in the office, depending on the necessity and employees availability but there should be flexibility on both ends.

Training and Education

Coming back to the office shouldn’t be dreadful and as we enter a new society with mandates and regulations, we must remember that we all went through the pandemic and we each had our own experiences. Family members passed away, sense of smell and taste have yet to return, anxiety, depression and isolation surged through the masses. The key point here is that we all experienced the pandemic, but we may not have had the same psychological or physical experiences. So how do we bring this into the office two years later?

Understanding

Taking time to understand and listen to what your employees have gone through these past years will create a better environment by giving them time to decompress in a new space. Although some will not feel the need to express their mental state, rest assured it will be a positive feature to provide this cushion of acceptance and vulnerability. 

Onsite counseling from a professional should be provided to each organization providing mental relief for employees at any time throughout the workday. Ongoing education and training are essential during the first three months to ensure the workplace is a safe and trusting environment for all employees no matter the status. This would include COVID regulations, certain mandates agreed upon by the organization, cleaning schedules and education of the systemic toll the pandemic revealed. We are a diverse society and we do not have the same resources as our neighbor might have. Education on this topic can provide insight and understanding.

“Online learning proved to be “a poor substitute” for classrooms; kids still haven’t caught up with the lost learning. Lower-income students are further behind than others. The stress has not only been incredibly difficult for children and their parents and teachers but also boiled over into political activism in many places, defining elections in some'' (Matt Kraven, et. al, 2022).

The key here is to reduce high turnover and increase the level of happiness of employees to associate being on-site as a positive transformation. Employees who are stressed, burnt out, unheard and unhappy have a higher chance of less productivity and quitting. Providing these resources can help relieve the stressors we all face and have faced from the pandemic. People are still sick, the Corona Virus is an active illness that we are still fighting as a country, we are not moving on but simply learning how to live in this new world.

Trauma Informed Training

The virus showed us that it did not discriminate when it took people we love, when we lost our jobs or when our businesses failed. Every person on this earth was impacted in one way or another; young or old. Yet, what it taught us was humility and what we need going back to the workplace fulltime or hybrid, is the world-wide empathy that arose during the time of the Pandemic. “Research on organizational demography indicates that being in the minority has significant effects on individuals’ affective experiences in the workplace, including feelings of isolation and lack of personal efficacy” (Mor Barak et al., p.8, 2006). We all endured the Pandemic, but we did not all share the same experiences. 

Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial”. The key to equity is to be unbiased, neutral and unprejudiced when confronted with diversity. In a workplace with individuals from different backgrounds, different races, and different genders it is essential to be impartial. Without this key aspect, equity/equality cannot exist in a workplace. 

With the transition back to the office, it is an excellent time to introduce and re-define equity in the workplace. Trauma informed education can be included with the covid regulation training and new onboarding can be re-introduced. It is the ideal moment to re-organize the structure of management, development and the organizational workplace overall. Equity development and trauma education cannot transform an organization overnight but with the correct resources it can be accomplished and can help improve your workplace environment for all.

“Many of our orthodoxies from past decades have been upended, and the need to continually learn has never been clearer, so that we can continue to adapt to today’s crisis and prevent the next one.” (McKinsey.com, Matt Kraven et. al, 2022).

Learning and Development Resources:

About the Author:

Jaquelyn Durazo is an Emotional Intelligence Specialist with a Masters in Industrial & Organizational Psychology working as an independent contractor. She provides content and consultation for E.I Education and Leadership Development in the workplace. You can find her on LinkedIn or on Upwork.com.

References

Craven, M., Staples, M., & Wilson, M. (2022, March 12). Ten lessons from the first two years of covid-19. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/ten-lessons-from-the-first-two-years-of-covid-19 

 

Mor Barak Michàlle. (2022). Introduction and Conceptual Framework. In Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace (Second, p. 8). essay, SAGE Publications.




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