No, You Should Not Fully Reopen The Office Yet – Forbes - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

No, You Should Not Fully Reopen The Office Yet – Forbes

Last I checked there was no vaccine readily available for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus. It’s essentially still March 17, 2020, yet some leaders feel compelled to get their people back to the office.

If you’re in charge of a team or organization, is there much to debate when it comes to potentially reopening the office fully? In my opinion, there is not.

The focus of my attention is on the typical office. It’s not the hospitality, healthcare, education, or manufacturing industries. It’s not any place of work where you physically need to be (socially distanced) face-to-face for the work to get done.

If you are leading a team or organization where the work that is performed can be perfectly accomplished from home, I find it rather unnecessary to force people back into the office. It’s a stupidity project.

First point? Work from home seems to be doing just fine. For example, PwC surveyed 120 US company executives and 1,200 US office workers between May 29 and June 4, 2020, to see how effective remote work has been. Just under three-quarters of executives indicated it had been a roaring success. If senior leaders believe productivity is being maintained if not improved, that’s a good sign.

Furthermore, McKinsey recently surveyed more than 800 US-based employees working from home. The firm found that “employees working remotely see more positive effects on their daily work, are more engaged and have a stronger sense of well-being than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility do.” If employees are more engaged in working from home rather than going into the office, what’s not to like about that?

Second point. CFOs have discovered a cash cow of OPEX savings from the tragedy that is the pandemic. What is it? Real estate. CFOs are aiming to decrease their organization’s real estate footprint to save operating costs. In doing so, there will be less office space for employees. If there is less space, you can imagine what cramped cubicle land quarters might look like when CFOs get their hands on the floor plans.

Gartner surveyed 103 CFOs and finance leaders. The results are a warning sign. The firm wrote: “It’s notable that real estate topped CFOs’ lists for planned cuts to next year’s budgets, suggesting remote work is here to stay, and some level of downsizing is expected.”

Final point: mental and emotional well-being. HR firm Morneau-Shepell discovered that 32 percent of US employees feel their employer has been inconsistently, poorly, or very poorly supporting employee mental health during the pandemic. It’s 34 percent in Canada. In my experience, employers were not given high marks on this file before the pandemic. Thus, it’s not a good sign when employees are now feeling worse about their employer’s pandemic response to mental and emotional wellness.

Add to this an employee’s reticence to come back to an office full of potentially COVID-19 carrying peers. The anxiety and mental anguish of employees that accompanies the coronavirus is not to be taken lightly. Willis Towers Watson found that 92 percent of employees are experiencing some form of anxiety from the pandemic. Safety concerns, helplessness, grief, and uncertainty were some of the factors cited.

In summary, if your organization does not need people in the office to perform the objectives stated to achieve your goals, please reconsider reopening the office in full.

You may want to safely reopen it for a tiny portion of employees whom need to be in the office to improve their productivity. For example, perhaps a couple with no children live in a small condo, and it’s difficult for two people to be on webcam meetings or conference calls all day. Going to the office might provide essential relief to one of those people. That’s a smart move.

But if you mandate everyone back to the office and cram them into the building without a vaccine (let alone safe social distancing and hygiene questions), it’s a recipe for declining employee engagement in addition to likely staff attrition at some point. I’d bet my last dollar that productivity will wane as well.

“Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.”


Pre-order my next book, LEAD. CARE. WIN. How to Become a Leader Who Matters. It publishes September 29, 2020.

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