As employers around the world experiment with bringing their employees back to offices, the leadership must act now to ensure that when they return, workplaces are both productive and safe. As you are probably aware, the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines are being given to millions of people around the UK, which means we are even closer to welcoming staff back into the workplace. As a business leaders, it is vital you create a safe environment for employees to return to.
Some businesses are concerned that their employees will not want to return to the office after over a year of working from home. The worry is that people would have got comfortable with not having to commute into an office environment and would feel safer staying at home. This, however, is not the case. Only 12 percent of people want to continue to work from home full-time after the pandemic, and most employees want to work from an office three or more days a week. This proves that employees really are craving that in-person interaction.
What we have realised this past year is that we do not work just to earn money, we work because we enjoy coming together with our colleagues to create new ideas and solve problems. We enjoy being around others and have face-to-face meetings as opposed to being in the Zoom rooms and on Teams.
Many people have had hardly any social interaction this past year, which has worryingly increased loneliness across the UK and the rest of the world. According to a survey of UK adults which took place nine months into Covid-19 restrictions, 25 percent of adults said they had feeling of loneliness in the previous 2 weeks prior to the survey.
People are of course worried and anxious about their return to work, however many are also keen and excited because it means we are close to ‘normality’ in whatever form that may take. We all miss the office banter, sharing stories of our weekends around the watercooler and lunch time catch ups with our colleagues. It is the job of the employer to create that safe and positive environment for workers to return to and to make the transition easier.
Doctor Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said “Coffee breaks—and the informal connections we make there—matter, as does our general office social life, which helps keep us engaged. It is hard to keep that going via occasional video chats.”
I think we can all agree that we are now done with WIFI delays and the constant ‘Can you hear me?’. Who is ready to get back to a slightly normal way of life and reconnect with the colleagues we once took for granted?