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NAVIGATING THE NEW OFFICE

by | Apr 1, 2021

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Image source: https://imgflip.com/memetemplate/86080581/Dwight-Hazmat

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]When we return to office settings after vaccinations and herd immunity set in, things won’t be just like they were on March 1, 2020 — we’ll have to learn to navigate the new office. Get ahead of the curve by addressing the points of contention alongside your return-to-office comms to prevent unnecessary tension in the workplace.

1. Some employees might be more cautious than others.

Health experts recommend that, once we’re vaccinated, our behaviors shouldn’t change overnight. Even after the country reaches herd immunity and everyone who wants to get vaccinated has been able to do so, it will still take time for some employees to feel comfortable with the old routine in the new office.

This last twelve months have obviously changed the way that most of us perceive the world; our brains have learned to view six feet of personal space as a life-or-death right, and it will take time for many of us to feel safe around larger groups, like an office setting, once again.

Encourage employees to ask those around them before de-masking within six feet of each other. If serving food, be careful about buffet-style offerings where the food will be breathed on by the group in the midst of consumption, and find ways to offer individual servings, if possible. Don’t assume that employees are comfortable carpooling together to and from volunteer events.

On the other hand, some employees may be more private about their medical information, and may not be comfortable telling their coworkers whether or not they’ve been vaccinated or contracted COVID-19 over the course of the year. With COVID-19 being the primary topic of conversation for the last year and change, some employees are desensitized to the fact that these questions are requests for private medical information.

While many employees will feel totally comfortable with few restrictions, especially once vaccinated, others won’t and may feel shy about speaking up. Encourage employees to be considerate of the feelings of others from the get-go before internal conflicts arise.

2. The suit and tie will feel extra stuffy.

A lot of employees gave up on dressing up for virtual meetings two weeks into quarantine, so they’ve spent about a full year in pajamas on their couch with their Zoom shirt on standby.

While that might not be suitable for the work environment, spending an hour or more getting ready might seem like too much effort for work on a normal day back in the office. Especially for employees in non-client-facing roles, the trending expansion in casual work attire from before the pandemic began will spread even further.

While your company doesn’t have to fully succumb to sweatpants and t-shirts, or even jeans every day of the week, it’s a good idea to consider more lenient policies and, whatever you do, make sure it’s clear to employees. Include reminders or updates about dress code policy in the emails, intranet posts and other comms that you use to let employees know that the office is opening again.

3. They’ll miss the increased family time.

Though the burden of having kids at home and taking on some of the roles that teachers normally played was hard on parents, they did get to spend a lot more time with children than they typically would have. Parents will be glad to have the reduced responsibilities, as well as the improved education for their children, but many will still miss their home life a little extra. Even non-parents may have gotten used to spending more time with roommates, spouses, siblings or other family members that they spent more of their days working alongside.

Returning to the office will certainly ease the feelings of isolation that so many felt over the course of the last year, especially those who live alone. But, for those who weren’t so much isolated as they were stuck in a sardine can with those they love most, more frequent calls home, work-from-home days and vacation days could help them feel less disconnected in the opening weeks of the new office experience.

It’s important to not only mention that missing the extra time is allowed, but to make sure that managers and others are modelling this in an appropriate way — employees may not be willing to take what’s offered to them if they don’t see their direct superiors participating.

Interested in return-to-office comms? Tribe can help.

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