Returning to office after Covid era and two years of working from home can pose a real challenge for many employees and companies. Everybody has experienced the pandemic in their own way, so people have different attitudes towards their working space. While younger employees are the most excited about this change, more experienced professionals, who need less supervision, tend to be more reluctant.
According to a recent survey, no less than 60 percent of the employees claim that they would leave their workplace if they were not allowed to work from home or if working from the office was mandatory every day. However, 87 percent of them consider that meeting colleagues in person is important for their job satisfaction, productivity, and mental health.
While 94 percent want to spend time with their colleagues, only 31 percent wish for more than 3 days a week in their company. More than half would prefer a hybrid work environment. In contrast, 28 percent want to work from home all the time and 15 percent prefer to be at the office full time.
The challenges of returning to office after Covid
What is sure is that the next period will be an experiment for everybody, which will most likely reshape the office market. We put together a list of challenges that you should expect and some advice on how to navigate the returning to office after Covid (RTO) environment. Read forward to find out more about the transition from WFH to RTO.
Commuting to the office
Are one of those persons who, in the past two years, jumped from bed directly to your laptop and joined the morning meeting while still drinking your coffee? In this case, commuting to work might feel like the most dreadful part of RTO.
Commuting is often seen as dead time, during which one can’t usually do much. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you are driving to work, you can still use that time to listen to an audiobook or catch up on the news. If you are using public transportation or a company shuttle, you have even more options:
- Read your email
- Check your to-do list
- Re-read your presentation
- Revise your meeting notes
In the evening, you can use that time as a buffer during which to disconnect from work mood and tune into home mode. Listen to your favorite podcast, check social media, catch up with your friends, or check out some recipes for dinner.
Since people experience various degrees of anxiety towards returning to office after Covid, a mood signaling system could benefit everybody.
Some companies use colored wristbands or lanyards that allow employees to signal how comfortable they are with physical contact. Similar to the traffic stop lights:
- Green means “go” for hugs and handshakes
- Yellow should be approached with caution – use fist bumps and elbows
- Red warns to keep your distance
This system helps everyone feel more comfortable and navigate the post Covid office environment a bit easier.
In-person meetings will probably feel weird after two years of video conferences. Even experienced employees find it difficult to readjust to holding presentations in front of an entire team sitting in the same room. Remember the importance of making eye contact and speaking freely without relying too much on a screen.
Scheduling the meetings might be challenging too. Face-to-face meetings require more time to gather everyone and some extra time for breaks and debriefing.
After two years in which the most popular work outfits were pajamas and sweatpants, RTO is a great reason for a wardrobe renewal.
Most of us wouldn’t fit in our pre-pandemic jeans anyhow, which might be the reason why skinny jeans are already out of style 🙂 Even if your workplace has a casual dress code, make sure your picks are adequate for the office.
While working in an office, the lunch break is the most important social event of the day. Whether you bring your lunch from home, eat at the office cafeteria, or at a nearby restaurant, chances are that you won’t be alone. Take advantage of the lunch breaks to catch up with old colleagues, and get to know the newcomers.
Help your community recover and show your support for local businesses by patronizing the restaurants that have survived the pandemic.
At 4PSA, the lunchtime is a moment for both these strategies.
- We encourage our teammates to have lunch together, either in the cafeteria or on the rooftop. They can catch up, create stronger bonds and have some fun with their colleagues.
- Furthermore, we support local businesses by ordering lunch for all our employees on every business day.
We might be done with the pandemic, but Covid is not yet done with us. The virus is still out there, and even if you are not very concerned about it yourself, the same might not be true for your co-workers. Keep in mind that some people have high anxiety related to Covid and RTO.
Respect all the health guidelines imposed during the pandemic:
- Keep some minimum distance from others
- Only cough and sneeze into your elbow or shoulder
- Wash your hands often
- Disinfect your keyboard once a day
If the return to office after Covid is making you anxious, express your desire not to be approached too closely. Even wear a mask if it makes you feel safer.
The future is flexible
The pandemic highlighted the different needs of employees but has also proved another point. It’s not necessary that most employees to do all their work at the same time and from the same place. Therefore, returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean returning to a nine-to-five work schedule on-site.
The post Covid office environment is expected to be quite different from the pre-pandemic one, being defined by flexibility. There can’t be a one-size-fits-all model anymore when talking about office attendance and scheduling.
Employers will adapt and stay flexible, while employees will slowly get used to a totally new work routine.