Remember those days, when your morning alarm would ring and you’d pull the quilt over your head and think, “Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to go into the office.” Who would’ve imagined that an evil virus fairy would appear and make your stay at home dreams come true.
The idea of going to an office – far, far away from the piles of laundry, dishes, kids and dogs – might be seeming attractive again. A civilized place, where adults gather to do their work and then leave.
On the other hand, the looming threat of a deadly virus continues to work its way through our society. We have flattened curves, but we are still far from achieving a vaccine, treatments, contact tracing or mass testing in many regions.
So if you’re feeling conflicted, worried, or even scared about returning to work, you’re certainly not alone. According to the Washington Post, a recent poll with Ipsos found that nearly 60% of Americans working outside their homes fear being exposed to the virus and putting their families at risk.
In a provocatively titled essay for The Atlantic titled, “Never go back to the office”, Juliette Kayyem, former Department of Homeland Security official and author of Security Mom, writes: “If you run an organization whose employees are more or less getting their work done at home, listen to that little voice in your head. Return to the office now? That’s crazy talk. I’m only telling you what you already know.”
Shopify agrees. “Digital by default,” is what CEO Tobi Lutke is calling his company’s approach. “We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality… And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over."
Similarly, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote, "If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”
It’s not just tech companies. UK-based Barclays Bank recently said that the notion of putting thousands of workers in a building “may be a thing of the past”.
The fact is, returning to work – like returning to school or the gym or the grocery store – will not be the same. Precautions such as masks and distancing barriers will keep you safe, while sacrificing the collegial environment you might have previously enjoyed. “If your morning routine wasn’t long enough already, you’ll love waiting in socially distanced lines to get your forehead scanned,” warns Ms. Kayyem.
Whether you’re the boss or an employee, if you need help navigating your rights and responsibilities during these sensitive times, reach out to a human resources specialist or an employment lawyer who can advise you on a strategy that works for you and your team.