The pandemic-forced work-from-home edict was so effective that an Office Depot poll revealed that 50% of employees would give up their vacation time to continue remote work. More than 1,000 professionals were polled to gauge the current state of and sentiments towards the workforce. Some employees (22%) said that this month (January 2021) is the right time to return to on-site work.
Most states have issued comparatively minor restrictions–and perhaps because of the pending availability of the vaccine–nearly 68% of companies have returned to on-site work, but a majority of business leaders (86%) have accepted that many employees are uncomfortable with returning to work right now. Of those companies that have returned to on-site work, 16% of employers said they’ll allow employees to work from home indefinitely.
Employers responded to current strategies and 66.8% were in favor of a change to work hours (staggering time/schedules), 67.4% were in favor of allowing remote work indefinitely, and 64.3% were in favor to implement a dispersed (hybrid) workforce.
SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)
COVID-19 related office policies
Of the companies that have returned to work, 63.5% require employees wear masks all the time, except when eating or drinking, 55.1% said they must wear masks when interacting with clients, but 44.6% of employers are requiring masks only during meetings, 42.3% when interacting with customers only, and 38% are requiring visitors/customers to wear masks all the time except when eating or drinking.
Eighty-three percent of employers said they worked with “outside resources to conduct on-site assessments and benchmarking to prepare for re-entry.” The most common steps to improve the workplace: Added hand-sanitizing stations (56%), frequent disinfection of the workplace (54%), physical distancing employees (48%), allowed flexible hours/schedules (45%), carrying out a workplace risk assessment (43%), implementing mask requirements (43%), providing masks or shields (39%), requiring unwell workers to stay home (37%), educating employees on how to cover coughs and sneezes (36%), requiring temperature checks (34%), installing partitions to separate employees (30%), limiting the number of employees on site at a time (30%), limited large group gatherings of meetings (29%), providing employee awareness education and training (27%), creating clear post-COVID-19 policies and messages (25%), reducing operating hours (24%), and eliminating communal areas (such as coffee stations, kitchens, etc.) (16.5%).
Management were also polled on the office areas where they fear the risk of exposure–meetings and conferences rooms were at the top of the list (60%), followed by common areas (53%), bathrooms (49%), break rooms (49%), desks/workstations (48%), kitchens (40%), and reception areas (38%).
Office Depot advised employers to consider restricting access to meetings and conference rooms as well as common areas (including bathrooms).
Return to on-site
A majority of employees (56%) said they were looking forward to returning to work on-site, with 44% saying they were not.
The top reasons cited by employees for returning to the workplace were: Seeing coworkers (55.4%), personal workspace (42.5%), work-life balance (37%), having a regular schedule (36%), fewer video conference calls (31.5%), collaborating with colleagues (31%), office supplies (27%), and lunch spots near work (18%).
There’s a definite conflict in the numbers between the previous poll and one where employees were asked if they preferred going back on-site or to continue working remotely. Working remotely was at the top of the list (50%), returning on-site (25%), and 24.6% said they’d prefer a hybrid schedule.
Seventy-seven percent of employees said they were willing to speak up to management if they felt the in-office health and wellness safety precautions were lacking.
Both employees and employers cited flexible working hours as the best remote work benefit, but employers were more likely than employees to cite better work/life balance. Avoiding a commute was a top benefit for 61% of employees, but only 38% of employers.
Remote working was an issue for employers in regards to poor internet connectivity and a lack of office supplies, but employees missed face-to-face interactions and felt a lack of team connection when working remotely.