News and Insight

Resources, advice and thought leadership from our experts.

What to do When Workers Don’t Want to Return to the Office?

The coronavirus pandemic forced workers into a collision of personal life and professional life with absolutely zero preparation, as many around the country had to adjust quickly to a work-from-home environment. No matter how the transition went, every employer and employee had to figure out a way to accomplish what they needed to work-wise, remotely.

At this stage, remote work has become the new norm, and employees are now in a position where they have gotten used to operating this way. They might even be hoping to never return to an office environment. There is also a subset of employees who might not want to return to an office environment out of sheer health anxiety. Either way, employers are going to have to navigate the coming weeks and months slowly as stay-at-home orders are lifted, and the response is going to differ depending on where companies were with remote work heading in. An employer who was already offering work-from-home benefits pre-COVID is going to address these scenarios differently than one who wasn’t.

Scenario #1: Employee who wants to continue working from home 100% of the time.

As an employer, it’s important to not just focus on what has been accomplished from a work perspective during the quarantine because that work environment is less than ideal, especially for working parents or those taking care of their parents. Obviously, results need to be part of the measurement when considering to allow 100% work-from-home privileges, but so should attitude. If you have an employee who has a positive attitude when it comes to collaboration and dealing with a less than ideal situation and also embodies the core values of the company, it’s worth considering this option for them. If you have an employee with a good attitude, but the results weren’t exactly where they needed to be during the stay-at-home orders, allow them to work from home when the orders are lifted. This helps gauge what the results could be when the work environment is returned to somewhat of the old normal.

Scenario #2: Employee who wants to continue working from home in some capacity.

Again, quarantine work results shouldn’t be the end all be all when it comes to determining if someone should be allowed to work from home in some capacity coming out of this. With employees already establishing a routine working remotely, it makes sense that workers who feel like they are thriving in that environment would want to continue. Social distancing doesn’t seem to be a term we are going to stop using anytime soon, so if there’s a good percentage of employees who want to continue working from home, an idea for employers is to segment the company into teams. Team A could work from home on certain days, alternating with other teams. Abiding by social distancing and providing your employees with this benefit – a win-win.

Scenario #3: Employee who is anxious to return to an office environment because of health worries

The experience of living through a pandemic is going to affect different people in different ways. If someone has concerns from a health perspective, it’s important to be empathetic and do your best to accommodate their genuine needs. Setting up the office environment to abide by social distancing guidelines and keeping it up to a cleanliness standard will help others feel more comfortable about returning. Control what you can as an employer and do your best to provide comfort to employees.

What should employers do when it comes to employees not wanting to return to the office environment? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out What You Can Expect in a Workplace Post-COVID Lockdown.