Over the past two months, the effects of COVID-19 have dramatically changed the ways we work. Now that organizations are preparing for their employees to return to the office, many managers and associates are planning for a different kind of workplace.
We asked members of the Staples InsidersNetwork, an online community for Staples customers, what they are currently experiencing as well as what they expect once a return to work is in sight.
Changes to Employment Status
Of the 467 respondents, who are primarily administrative professionals and office managers, 88% work full time. Yet the pandemic has changed their employment status in multiple ways. Nearly two thirds (63%) now define their workplace differently: 29% split their time between home and their official workplace, and 34% now work completely from home. They have experienced job furloughs, layoffs or early retirement as a result of the pandemic.
“Considering early retirement instead of returning if I cannot work from home.” – Anne C., laboratory supervisor
For some, these changes in where and how they work have them seeking ways to continue working from home. Many have become comfortable and efficient with these ways of working:
“I am hoping that they realize I can work at least part time from home since I am able to now, and hopeful that initially they will let me continue from home and once it is safer they let me continue to do it part time. My daughter is immune-suppressed and I don't want to take the chance of bringing it home by going back to work too soon.” – Candace A., data integrity coordinator
Company Practices Regarding the Return to Work
In their return-to-work approaches, organizations are implementing changes to help create a safe and healthy workplace. These include employee temperature screenings, the use of face masks and personal protective equipment, social distancing practices and stricter policies for high-traffic areas.
However, many individuals are unsure about when and how their organization is preparing for the return to work. As of May 11, 39% of respondents said their organization did not have a specific date planned for the return to work, and 27% were unsure if a date had been set. Only 16% said a date was planned (the remaining 18% said that their business operations had not been impacted by the pandemic).
For many, the uncertainty around the return date reflects the uncertainty in the pandemic itself:
“We are going month to month to see how the virus is doing and then will determine when we can go back to work.” – Delia K., accounting
There’s also uncertainty around how organizations are preparing for the return to work: 44% of respondents are unsure of what that preparation includes. Nearly a third of respondents (31%) say that their employer will provide face masks or other personal protective equipment. Other practices include staggering return dates (20%), communicating policies for high-traffic areas (18%), physical markers and signage (17%) and temperature screenings (16%).
“We have had some guidelines in place such as social distancing, not eating in a communal area, and daily screenings for employees. Not sure how that will change when we start going back into the office.” – Donna I., administration
Excitement About Returning to Work
With stay-at-home order restrictions easing, many are eager to have a more structured work routine (46%) and the ability to socialize with their co-workers (45%). In addition, 30% of respondents say they are most looking forward to having access to the tools to do their job.
For these respondents, both the productive and connective aspects of work are important. Here’s what they’re looking forward to:
“Being able to have an in-person impact on my clients. Virtually is a good second choice, but my business is all about relationships. Those are hard to have without face-to-face interactions.” – Stephanie F., practice consultant
“Working from home is great, but you do have to adapt to a different workspace. At the office, everything is set up the way I like.” – Eric T., purchasing administrator
Overall, there’s a shift in what the new normal will be, as organizations set up a safe and healthy workplace for their teams to come back to.
“This pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with others and approach them in the social gathering. Everyone has become more cautious of the surrounding as should be. We always need to plan for any emergency situations on both work life and family life as well.” – Dharma S., senior service delivery manager