“If there’s anything that the pandemic taught the workplace,” James Paterek says, “it’s that employees are nimble.” As Chief Strategy Officer of Millbrook Support Services, Inc., a healthcare staffing business, Paterek has seen more than his fair share of office life disruption. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces around the country had to shut down their offices. To keep things running, employees were suddenly not offered, but forced, to work from home. Amid dirty laundry, children crying, just to name a few, determined employees across the country got their work done. Kitchen tables were converted to desks, closets were converted into makeshift offices and suddenly parents were home more often but not available to their family more often, which is ironic It was a challenging time, and everyone is glad that the end is in sight. But one burning question remains. With all the changes brought on by the pandemic, where do we go from here?
Returning to the Office
Many organizations, including Google, Bank of America, and others, have declared to employees in no uncertain terms that a return to the office is needed. Citing reasons such as collaboration, productivity, and efficiency, these companies have made it patently clear that they expect to see their employees at their desks by a certain date. In response, many employees have tendered their resignations. It seems that the whole working from home theme has made many people feel that the trappings of in-office work, plus commute, are simply not worth the bother.
“Organizations need to be flexible at this time,” states James Paterek. “Just as it was tough for employees to adjust to working from home, it’s equally challenging to get back into the habit of appearing at work every day at nine.” The answer may lie in compromise, says Paterek. Offices could offer a transitional period where employees return to work only on certain days, working from home on the others. Some companies have already taken Paterek’s advice, saying that employees need to combine at least one day now, and then letting them know that more days will be required in the future.
Remote Work is Earth-Friendly
There is a huge contingency that says that remote work is more earth-friendly. Who can forget the endless lines of commuter traffic that disappeared almost overnight from the 405 in California, for example? With fewer cars on the road, there is less pollution and less need for fuel. None of that can be denied, but as is often the case, earth-friendly policies aren’t always human-friendly policies. James Paterek believes that remote work makes it harder for many organizations to get as much done as they did previously, even with the help of Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet.
“There is no one-size-fits-all answer,” says Paterek. “Each company is going to have to come up with the solution that works best with its goals. But that solution must take the employees’ wishes, mental health, and motivations top of mind. Strength and success lie in the hands of the workers. Without them, remote or otherwise, we’re all going to fall short.”