With lockdown restrictions easing, some people are starting to return to
offices and workplaces. The pandemic has shown many companies that they
can function adequately, and in some cases quite successfully, without
having their employees in a physical office. In fact, employees are
starting to question the “why” of an office. A recent McKinsey & Co
survey found that 80% of people enjoyed working from home, while
41% said that they are more productive than before.
The risks of the next normal
Clearly, some people and businesses will be keen to get back to how
things were before the outbreak. However, the truth is that the offices
now available to us are very different places: reduced
occupancy, enforced social distances and increased anxiety
about contact with co-workers. Will people want to stand in a crowded
elevators anymore? Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have
announced policies that will allow their employees to work from home
until next year, if not indefinitely. And, this past week, Slack joined their
ranks as well.
But for companies hoping for a hybrid of working from home and the
office, there’s also a reputational risk concern. No one wants to be
known as the company that caused a coronavirus spike. One of the
greatest thinkers about decision making and risk is the Nobel Prize
Kahnemann. He recognised that people tend to fear loses more
than they appreciate gains – the core insight in what has become known
In other words, we tend to focus on the small probability of something
bad happening and try to guard against it. These effects are very
sensitive to how we frame risks. For instance, a doctor presents a
diagnosis and states that there is a 5% mortality rate with a certain
procedure. Naturally, we fixate on the 5% rather than identifying with
the 95% survival rate.
Businesses have to watch out for these biases as they start to make
decisions on how and when they open up. Public-facing industries, such
as hospitality and retail, will face different challenges than
office-based ones. For the latter, the new status quo has suddenly
flipped from office environments to working from home. Across the last
three months, businesses have learned that employees can work from home
successfully. It is no longer seen as a perk but instead as a viable,
productive way of working.
However, the pandemic has left its mark on everyone, and the fear it
provokes is still present. Returning to the office, even in limited
ways, will require sensitivity to the broad range of emotional states
felt by employees and employers everywhere. Some people will be more
anxious about returning than others, while the few that have already had
the virus may feel invincible.
In a recent (virtual) HBR roundtable, Chuck Robbins, the
CEO of Cisco Systems, stated this was the moment for business leaders to
Employees and society want to see who you are as a company. What do
you stand for? The answers will have lasting impact as we move beyond
How to help your employees transition back to life at the office
There will be a learning curve as employees re-adjust to working in
office environments. At Friday Pulse, we suggest you prepare for the
next normal by adopting an approach that is empathetic, grounded and
Our Five Ways to Happiness at Work framework identifies five
positive behaviours that are the key drivers of positive, productive
workplace cultures and can help think through the policies you create.
- Be Fair
Taking these seriously will help ensure that unhappiness and resentment
won’t set in.
Here’s how you can help.
Moving slowly to succeed
Friday Pulse tracks the wellbeing of teams. It gives employees a
platform to share how they feel, and space for them to share what’s
going well and air concerns, while enabling teams to adjust
During this pandemic period, we are committed to helping businesses
bounce back and improve team morale. That’s why we are continuing to
offer companies and teams (50 – 1,000 employees) free access
to our people platform for 12 weeks.
The road forward is undoubtedly bumpy for employers and employees alike.
It will require serious consideration of organisational priorities.
Still, as we make an effort to be flexible, to show kindness and empathy
for everyone’s working situations, we will be able to create better
wellbeing for everyone.