Communications Specialist for Insperity Recruiting Services, specializing in employment branding and recruitment marketing.
Hard as it is to believe, the world has been living with the novel coronavirus for a full year now. During this time, many offices and businesses have reopened, only to close again as Covid-19 cases surged, repeatedly postponing employees’ return to the office and to normal life. But due to the recent introduction of multiple vaccines, employees can now see a light at the end of the tunnel and a path back to the office.
However, for some, a return to the office is a hard sell. A year ago, employees were forced to pivot on a dime and create home offices, learn to work around family members’ schedules, master video conferencing software and adjust to virtual meetings. In the process, they gave up lengthy commutes, saved money on gas, food expenses and daycare, and realized they could still be productive wearing sweatpants. Now, adjustments have been made, and employees have learned what’s required for remote teams to be successful. This leaves many asking, why go back to the office?
Employers who have spent months paying rent on empty office space aren’t the only ones looking forward to employees’ return. In fact, according to a recent survey by commercial real estate firm JLL, three in four workers hope to return to the office in the near future. Let’s look at a few benefits the office can still offer employees.
Though most of us have celebrated the virtues of remote work at some point in the past year, it’s hard to deny the drawbacks — one of them being loneliness. Prior to the pandemic, the office was more than a place to work. It was where friendships were formed, and smart employers realized that because happy employees were productive employees, co-worker interaction and bonding were good for business. In fact, a LinkedIn study on working relationships shows that 46% of professionals worldwide believe that work friends are integral to their overall happiness, thus helping to boost productivity and engagement levels. For the time being, co-workers must do their best to stay connected through Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours, but many look forward to once again forming closer bonds in the office.
Remote work can pose many challenges to employees after years of working in an office environment, not the least of which include collaboration among teammates. While video conferencing software has become invaluable for staying productive during the pandemic, it’s a far cry from the problem-solving, brainstorming and ideation sessions that could be found in any pre-pandemic office conference room. There’s something magical about the power of team groupthink when participants are face-to-face, able to bounce ideas off of one another while unencumbered by a digital barrier. Though employees deserve respect for staying collaborative and productive while adjusting to a virtual work environment during a challenging year, many anxiously await the old-fashioned idea sharing that will once again take place after returning to the office.
Separation Of Work And Home
As the working world went virtual in 2020, many celebrated the end of their commute to the office while others realized convenience comes at a price. Before the pandemic, life seemed simpler. The office was for work; home was for personal life. The office was for co-workers and clients; home was for family. The office was for stressing; home was for relaxing. Of course, there were times when the lines between work and home life became blurred, but having separate locations bookended by a commute helped keep worlds from colliding. However, since Covid-19 has normalized remote work, the barrier that once separated work and home life has disintegrated. Pajamas are now work clothes, children and pets make frequent appearances in meetings and conference calls, and meals, work time and break time all blend together. While some employees relish the freedom, others do far better in a more structured environment and look forward to re-establishing the boundaries between work and home life.
If employees don’t return to the office, who will use the ping pong tables, video games and nap pods that were once the cornerstone of hip, trendy startup workplace culture? While this statement may be facetious, workplace perks have long been used to help recruit new employees, make them feel comfortable in the office and entice them to spend as much time there as possible. Recently, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and the most sought-after perk has become the option to work from home. However, as stated earlier, not everyone thrives in a remote environment, and many prefer the bustle of the office to the solitude of telecommuting. Those who were drawn to their current jobs by free snacks, onsite gyms or any other workplace perks are likely anxious to once again enjoy them.
Return To Normalcy
One of the most important benefits the office can provide employees is a return to normalcy, and to their pre-Covid-19 lives. Many sacrifices have been made over the past year to keep workers employed and businesses profitable, all while keeping everyone healthy. People are tired of the “new norm” and look forward to a daily routine that doesn’t include masks and social distancing. For many, post-pandemic life will likely consist of a hybrid work model, combining the flexibility of remote work with the socialization and collaboration of the office. Until then, absence will continue to make the heart grow fonder as employees anxiously await their return to an office culture they never realized they would miss.
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