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The office building is reopening. Not all employees want to return.



Alexia Layne-Lomon returned to her office for the first time since the pandemic began, and she became anxious in the morning. Her stomach feels upset. Commuting to work used to be a casual day-to-day job, but now it feels unfamiliar and full of risks.

Layne-Lomon, 38, from Roslindale, Massachusetts, is one of millions of American employees who hurriedly transitioned to remote work last spring. A few weeks ago, she returned to her building to train new employees at the anti-poverty agency, where she was the director of development and grants.

Alexia Layne-Lomon met in her office before the pandemic started.Offered by Alexia Layne-Lomon

This day is full of reminders of the changes that have taken place since she took office.

Layne-Lomon has not yet been eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination, so instead of taking public transportation as before, she chose to drive to work. In her building, everyone wears masks, elevators have capacity restrictions to allow distance from society, and traffic flow signs have been posted to reduce congestion in the corridors.

But when she reached her floor, Layne-Lomon saw a familiar sight. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the two colleagues she has actually communicated with have been there.

She said: “It’s nice to meet them and get a chance to socialize and respite,” she added, she had to stop hugging her greetings. “It’s like:’Hey, look at us, we are all human beings! We are not just these little machines!'”

As the office space closed by the pandemic begins to open, not every employee is eager to return. From health to rusty social skills to worries about maintaining a new work-life balance, some people find this balance after their commute disappears, and many people are reluctant to give up their remote work settings.

Vaile Wright, a clinical psychologist at the American Psychological Association and senior director of healthcare innovation, said: “We focus a lot of our energy on what we lost last year.” What happened?’ I think, especially at work, a lot of achievements have been made.”

Not everyone has the luxury of working from home. But for those who are able, in a challenging year at work, they can invest in laundry at work, spend more time with their families or cook more home-cooked meals.

The 27-year-old Brittney Dales, the legal secretary who lives in San Bernardino, California, said: “I feel I can take care of myself better and have the ability to do it.” Not driving to work saves money This saves her car mileage and fuel savings, which gives her the opportunity to more easily arrange doctor and dentist appointments after get off work, and take her dog for a walk during lunch break.

Brittney Dales.Courtesy of Brittney Dales

Like Layne-Lomon, Dales has been back to her office many times recently, but she doesn’t know when or if she will return regularly. Compared with the loneliness of working in the bedroom, her trip to work feels too exciting.

She said: “One day, I was in the office, a lawyer was talking to me, and the printer was running, and all this background noise was happening.” “I can’t concentrate because I’m used to a quiet place. Although there was a little noise (even if it was not very loud), it took me away.”

Why the vaccine can’t eliminate all worries

Many companies have welcomed workers back. According to data released on March 29, Kastle Systems, a security management service provider for 3,600 buildings across the United States, said that 24.2% of employees in 10 major cities in the United States are entering offices.

As more and more people are vaccinated, this number is expected to grow. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio (Bill de Blasio) recently announced that May 3 is the target date for approximately 80,000 municipal employees to return to work. On the other side of the country, Microsoft has begun to bring back some employees through the “soft opening” of its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. At the same time, in Minneapolis, Target Corp. expects to permanently combine mixed work and office work, and has reduced the company’s office space by a third.

Experts say that no matter what decision the company makes, they should recognize that the Covid-19 vaccine may not eliminate the anxiety of employees.

A survey released by the American Psychological Association last month found that after the pandemic ended, 49% of adults were upset about returning to face-to-face interaction. The vaccination situation has not affected this: 48% of the people who have been vaccinated said that they also feel uncomfortable with face-to-face interaction.

Wright said this may be partly due to the uncertainty surrounding vaccines, although there is encouraging evidence that they provide protection for at least six months.

She said: “We know we have effective vaccines, but we still don’t know how long it will last. We still don’t know how effective they are against these variants. We still don’t have vaccines for children.” “There are still many things to be solved. “

Safety in the workplace is of particular concern. In a February survey of 1,000 adults by workplace technology company Envoy, 66% of employees said they were worried about their health when returning to the workplace.

Employees should also consider timetables: 48% of employees said they wanted to mix face-to-face and remote timetables, while 41% of employees said they were even willing to cut their pay to achieve this goal.

The founder of the Institute of Financial Psychology, and associate professor of financial psychology practice at the Hyde School of Business at Creighton University, Omaha, Brad Krontz, said that the unknowns of office returns from timetables to safety precautions plague employees. , Nebraska.

He said that employers should prepare for workers’ anxiety. Those who are already prone to anxiety may struggle more during the pandemic, and those who are not anxious may experience anxiety for the first time in the past year.

He said: “Try to find someone who doesn’t have sleepless nights.” “It will have a lasting impact.”

How employers and employees make this easier

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought challenges to mental health. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from August to February, the proportion of adults with symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5% in the past 7 days.

Experts say that returning to the office does not necessarily make these feelings worse. Both employers and employees can take steps to alleviate worries.

“Acceptance will be a little anxious.”

Krenz said: “Accepting people who are a bit anxious.” “Acceptance and struggle against opposition are really important.”

He advises employers to be flexible in expectations from the beginning.

He said: “Understanding this will become easier for some people, and more difficult for others, especially those who are most moved by it.” Dealing with the lingering health from the coronavirus problem. “Normalize its challenging facts. Say,’If you can do anything to make this easier for you, please contact me.'”

Wright said that after a long period of out-of-sight, everyone should be prepared for the interaction and feel a little kicked at first.

“Some of our social skills may have shrunk, so there will be an awkward shift. We are trying to figure out how to conduct small talk, and how to find the right words in the right sentences and make the right requests to ask questions in a way that has never been possible before. “she says.

She added: “At first it was tiring working from home. Then we went into the routine and figured it out.” “I hope this will happen here.”

She urged employers not to adopt a “one size fits all” approach to attract employees because they realize that some employers may need to arrange accommodation arrangements tailored to their psychological and emotional needs. She also suggested that employers be as transparent and communicate as possible about the reopening plan to reduce the uncertainty of employees before returning to their country.

Wright said that the most important thing is that both employees and employers should be open-minded.

She said: “We need to get rid of this framework and everything will return to the way it was before, because I don’t think they have to do this.”


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