But I Don't Want to Go Back to Work
With COVID numbers out of control in Ontario, Alberta and BC, it's hard to think about returning to work in an office. I expect though, that will start happening later this year after the majority of Canadians get their second vaccination.
I'm not sure many people have thought about the consequences of people being asked to return to work. I suspect many will want to keep working from home. In fact, a recent survey showed one person in every three would rather quit than go back.
I believe that workers, the companies they work for and the space they use, will all be drastically impacted.
Not Ready to Go Back
I was amused by comments people were making about working from home after the pandemic hit last year. People discovered how different it is not to have to go into an office.
I wouldn’t trade working from home for the world. It takes discipline, but it’s so much better than driving to an office every day, to do much the same work, at times around people you don’t even like.
Most of the people I’ve talked to over the last year agree with me and like working from home. One of our children has talked about the benefits of not being stuck in traffic for an hour and a half a day. Imagine how much more time that alone gives a person? I wondered too, so I did the math and it saves around 375 hours a year, or 50 full working days.
50 days worth of driving to and from work. In a single year.
We’ll get to the point later this year when everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have received their second shot. Then it will be interesting to see what happens.
I would be willing to bet a large percentage of people who have been working from home will want to continue doing so. They may be okay with going into the office a day or two a week, but I believe most people now working at home will want to keep doing it and won’t want to go back into an office setting on a full-time basis.
A study from a prominent HR firm revealed one in every three professionals working at home would quit rather than go back to working in an office full-time.
That’s when some difficult human resources decisions will have to be made. Will companies order their employees back to the office? What happens if there’s pushback and employees don’t want to go back? Will there be a large wave of resignations over a short period of time, as employees who are ordered back to work quit and look for jobs where they can work from home?
Like everything else with COVID, who really knows?
Getting the Band Back Together
I foresee a tug-of-war between people who want to continue working from home and many of their bosses, who eventually will want to “get the band back together.”
When the pandemic was declared just over a year ago, and companies started sending employees home to work, I think the expectation was that people would return later in the year when “things got back to normal.” But that was over a year ago and a lot of things have changed since then.
People have learned to work from home. Many have bought desks, chairs and new computer equipment. They’ve learned how to Zoom. More than anything else, they’ve learned to work from home and be productive. Many have even renovated their homes because they’re spending much more time in them.
Still though, I sense many organizations will feel they won’t be able to reach their post-pandemic goals unless they get people back in offices, to meet, work together and use the advantages synergies can bring.
It’ll be an interesting time for managers and HR professionals.
Last summer Google told its employees who were working at home they would stay at home until this summer. In the last few weeks though, some have been getting called back to an office, but only because the vaccination rollout in the US is well ahead of Canada.
Office Space Glut
Another interesting post-pandemic situation to watch for will be office space.
Regardless of the number of people who return to their old offices, there’s no question many won’t and companies will have to figure out ways of dealing with too much space. Some already have over the last year.
There’s no question that if every organization was able to start fresh and make decisions today on the office space they will need for the next five years, the majority would take less space than they have now. If part of their staff can work at home, then the offices they used to be in will no longer be needed.
Whenever things do start returning to normal, look for companies to start making decisions on the space they’ll need. Things won’t change overnight, but over the next few years, I expect there will be a glut of office space and more people working from home.
There will also be many companies that will see the advantages of allowing their employees to keep working from home. If they can use less space and save money, they'll be happy to do so.
Mind you, by the looks of the latest COVID numbers, those days may still be a long way off.
I am pleased our organization was in a position to assume working from home with little concern by being prepared through policy and procedure, benefits and a focus on safety. It has been a different work-world but one I enjoy and I wouldn't mind continuing to work from home. BUT I also enjoy going into my office at my workplace - so a combination of days in office and days at home would also work quit well.
Good food for thought, Grant. Take care, Linda.
Thanks for your comment Linda. Yes I think a lot of people would like a combo, but I'm not sure if that would work best for their organization. Most will still need to keep the same space, because it will be used 2-2.5 days, but if it keeps everyone happier that may happen.