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Return to Office: What Employees Are Thinking (But Might Not Be Saying)

By Janine Sheehan on

When it comes to returning to the office, employees will be working through a range of thoughts and emotions. Some concerns may be communicated to management and others may not.

  • I want to work from home permanently.
  • I want a hybrid model permanently.
  • I want to go back to the office.
  • I want more flexibility.
  • I want to work from a different state.
  • I’ve been working more hours and not sure how to “go back” to normal.
  • I’m burned out.
  • I had to take the year off and I’m worried it will hurt my career.
  • I’m worried about taking public transportation.
  • I’m worried about going back to a multi-hour commute.
  • I’m worried about safety in the office.
  • I’m worried about wearing a mask all day.
  • I’m worried about not wearing a mask all day.
  • I feel anxious when I think about going back to the office.
  • I feel elated when I think about going back to the office.

As an employer, first consider what’s best for your company—what you do, where you’re located, and how productive/successful you’ve been if you’ve been remote for the last year. And then be prepared for a variety of asks, scenarios and even last-minute changes of heart from your team.

You may have a younger contingent who can’t wait to get back to the office. You may have parents who’ve now experienced the benefits of working from home. You may have employees who will struggle to return to the office but won’t feel comfortable speaking up. You may have people who think they’ll be fine, but when the time comes, won’t be.

A balance of practicality and empathy could be the path. Doing what you believe is right for your business while doing your best to meet employees where they are. One plan won’t fit all, but demonstrating open-mindedness and patience as employees think through (and hopefully speak up on) new working models is a great place to start.