Ask Workers How They Feel about Returning to the Office

56% of the respondents in the study reported that their organization hadn’t asked for their opinions about return-to-work policies.

This summer I’ve been canvassing clients on their organizations’ return-to-work timeline and structure. All structures are in play depending on the company, its culture and its client base. There are those that will continue to offer the flexibility of remote work and those that will ask staff to gradually return to in-person work one or two days a week or most days.

A Fast Company article this summer relayed the results of a survey of 4,553 office workers in five countries. It found every single person reported feeling anxious about the idea of returning to in-person work. The top causes of that stress included being exposed to COVID-19, the loss of work flexibility, the added commute, having to wear a mask in the office and a need for child care.

What was a bit shocking in the article is that 56% of the respondents in the study reported that their organization hadn’t asked for their opinions about return-to-work policies and procedures. What a missed opportunity to ask good coaching questions. For example, “What concerns do you have about returning to in-person work? What excites you about coming back into the office? How important is flexibility to you?”

In another article on Fortune.com, behavioral scientist and author Gleb Tsipursky found some leaders have different mental blind spots around work-from-home options for their staff. Some leaders show “status quo bias,” wanting things to go back to the way they were before the pandemic. But the forced work-from-home of the last year and a half shows that other options are now available and the status quo can change.

Other leaders cling to an “anchoring bias,” which is tied to our initial work experiences. We may have all started our careers going into the office five days a week, but times have changed and employees want to keep the flexibility of this past year. This point in time offers organizations an opportunity to shed the biases and reinvent. So, to the bosses everywhere, ask your employees what they want, really listen to what they are telling you and create accordingly.

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