MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As offices reopen, many workers don’t want to get back to the pre-pandemic grind.
One study found more than 80% of remote employees are against returning to the workplace or would like a hybrid schedule.
WCCO takes a look at productivity levels this last year, and what that could mean for making new plans with your boss.
Like many, Michelle Fohrenkamm’s downtown views of St. Paul were replaced by those from the suburbs when COVID came on scene.
“The last time I was at work was last March of 2020,” Fohrenkamm said.
An employee of Ramsey County for 11 years, she worked from home regularly before. Now, Fohrenkamm wants to stay put for good.
“Everything we’ve been doing for the last year we should be able to continue doing it from home like we have been,” Fohrenkamm said.
Meeting deadlines at work she believes became easier, with the option to finish up after-hours or on the weekends — all while juggling two young boys without the hassle of a 35-minute commute.
“Having that flexibility is huge. I would much rather have that than more money, not having to commute and pay for parking and worry about the safety of myself when we have to go downtown,” Fohrenkamm said.
Ernest Owens, an assistant professor of business at the University of St. Thomas, believes productivity among white-collar jobs has in some cases exceeded pre-pandemic work levels. But it’s stress and burnout he points to as real problems.
“It’s almost like a voluntary thing. It’s ‘Yes, I’m tired, I’m on all these Zoom sessions, and there’s so much Zoom going on and I’m Zoom fatigued, and the next five minutes they’re back onto another Zoom session,” Owens said.
He thinks we’ll fully realize the physical and mental toll of working full-time at home soon, without the luxury of leaving work behind.
COVID has prompted countless calls to employment attorneys like Emma Denny.
“It’s a very unsettled area of law at the moment just because it is so new and there is so many unresolved issues at this time,” Denny said.
She says employers can mandate that employees come back as a condition of their work. And most can legally be required to show proof of vaccination first.
For their part, employers must maintain safety requirements like social distancing and masks. Still, when it comes to returning to the office, Denny’s found most employers are giving their workers some wiggle room.
“I really haven’t been seeing a lot of opposition from employers to allowing employees to continue to work from home in some capacity,” Denny said.
She says it’s best to start with a formal plan, not a casual conversation, and have the logistics worked out first. Focus on how the arrangement benefits your boss, not you, pointing to measurable outcomes like a boost in production and more ownership over big projects.
Mike Haddox is in sales, and one of the few workers we found excited to head back to his building June first.
“This isolation, I didn’t like,” Haddox said. “I work longer hours more on the weekends. But also there’s a lot of distractions working from home.”
The social interactions with his 40 colleagues is the part of the job he misses most.
Owens reminds workers to take breaks while working from home, and get outside away from your screen. Click here for more tips.
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Author: WCCO | CBS Minnesota