Your Workplace Questions Answered: Returning to the Office
With the social distancing restrictions of Covid-19 over, many employees are being told they must return to the office. For some, this is a welcome announcement. For others, it's a cause for concern.
Many questions come along with returning to the office after an extended time away. What will the work environment be like? Will my employer allow me to work from home? Are there accommodations that can be made?
If you're someone who is not too thrilled about the transition back to on-site work, we get it. In this blog post, we will explore these in-office concerns and offer guidance for employees who are unsure of what to do next.
Consider Your Ideal Workplace Situation
Before you can make any decisions, it's important that you understand what your ideal work situation would be. Do you want to return to the office full-time? Would you prefer a hybrid model where you work in the office a few days a week and work from home the rest of the time? Are there certain days or hours that you feel more comfortable working from home?
Picture your ideal lifestyle and consider where you are willing to compromise.
Many people found that focus and productivity increased with remote work. Workers were also able to have more flexibility with the times that they worked and others felt relieved with an absence of constant social interaction that can cause stress and anxiety.
If you're one of these people who found remote work more fitting for your ideal lifestyle, then maybe you never want to go back into the office again--and that's fine! We all work differently, but if your employer is making return-to-office plans with no wiggle room or exceptions, then it may be time to apply for new remote jobs that align more with your preferred work situation.
Talk to Your Boss About the Transition
If you truly do not want to return to the office, but your employer has made the transition mandatory, don't just quit on the spot. Especially if you are a key player at your company, your employer may be willing to negotiate with you in order to keep you there.
Reach out to your direct manager and request a time to meet to discuss the transition and your concerns. Many employers are aware that some employees don't want to go back to on-site work, but without knowing their "why," then they may pass it off as laziness.
Before you meet with your manager, think about your "why" and pull some data if applicable. For example, if you found that you are more efficient when you work from home, then pull some metrics on your contributions from before you went remote versus after.
This will help your manager understand that it's not just a personal preference, but that there are real business impacts to be considered.
In your meeting, ask about the possibility of continuing to work from home or if there is any room for negotiation on the days or hours that you are in the office. Many employers have been accommodating to employees during Covid-19, so it's likely that they will be open to continuing some of those same remote work accommodations.
If you find that your employer is unwilling to negotiate or make any exceptions, then you may need to consider if this is the right job for you. If you're not comfortable with the work environment or the company culture, then it may be time to start looking for a new job.
Read more: How to Avoid Common Job Offer Mistakes
When an Employer Must Allow You to Work From Home
There are some cases where an employer is required to allow you to work from home or provide other accommodations.
If you have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to work in the office, then your employer is required to take workplace safety measures under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you are pregnant or have a medical condition that puts you at a higher risk for complications from Covid-19, then your employer is also required to provide a medical accommodations.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act both protect pregnant workers and new mothers from discrimination and provide them with leave time for prenatal care and bonding with a new child.
Additionally, if you have childcare concerns or school-age children at home, then the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for employees affected by Covid-19.
These are just a few examples of when an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations, but there may be other cases as well. If you're unsure if you fall into one of these categories, then reach out to a lawyer on workplace guidelines or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for guidance.
Your employer is not required to grant your request, but they must engage in an interactive process with you to discuss your needs and potential accommodations. If you're unsure what type of accommodation you need or how to request it, then reach out to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for guidance.
Weighing Your Options
When deciding whether or not to return to the office, you will need to weigh your options and decide what is best for you. Consider your health, your family's health, your job, and your career when making your decision.
Whether or not to return to the office is personal, and there is no right or wrong answer. What is important is that you make the decision that is best for you and your family.