To paraphrase the old World War I marching song, how do you get them back to the cubicle farm after they’ve seen life working from home?
Millions of Americans worked from home during the height of the pandemic lockdown. Many continue to do so. This workforce change has a lot of people questioning their employment choices. In a May 2021 survey, 39 percent of adults said they would consider quitting their job instead of returning to work full time in an office. And nearly half of those were younger workers — people born after 1980.
In a FlexJobs survey, 96 percent of those polled wish to see some form of remote work offered long-term, with 65 percent for full-time remote and 31 percent for part-time.
Some employers are now giving their employees the option of continuing to work from home until they feel comfortable. Other companies are implementing a hybrid option that lets employees work from home part-time. However, there are many employers who aren’t being as flexible.
When asked, some Delaware Valley residents said they would quit rather than return to the office. They asked that names be withheld due to the concern about any potential backlash from their employers.
“I quit! Life is so much more enjoyable without the commute and daycare,” said Krystle, a Brookhaven resident. “I realize how fortunate we are that we were able to adjust to one income, though.”
Childcare was a source of angst for many working parents during the pandemic, and the chance to work from home indefinitely helps to ease that anxiety and stress.
Even though the situation has improved since this time last year, some individuals worry that the pandemic isn’t over. Restrictions are being lifted, but a lot of people remain not fully vaccinated. Many don’t want to return to an office that could expose them to other unvaccinated employees.
“Some of us have unvaccinated children,” said another woman, who grew up in Media and now lives in New York. “Some are high risk. Some are disabled and it’s better for them to work from home.”
An option that many individuals enjoy is a hybrid situation.
“I’m working hybrid and I can tell you one thing, I can focus a lot more without the chatter in the office when I’m home,” said Donna, a Media resident. “I go in three times a week and I save the deep projects for the two days I am home.”
However, hybrid policies could cause legal issues with companies who want to adopt that type of workforce.
Bryan Sullivan with Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & Mcrae Attorneys at Law sat down with Delaware Valley Journal to talk about some of the legal problems that could arise with this new wave of workforce changes.
“A company can absolutely mandate that a person or an employee work at the office,” Sullivan said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. The legal issues are going to come into play on more of the hybrid models and how you implement the policy.”
For some older employees who aren’t as comfortable with technology or the virtual world, the move to remote work was frustrating, and they are happy to return to the office. However, many also feel that if they have to return to the office full time, so should everyone else.
“I loved working from home, but now we’re all back on location at my workplace,” said a woman from Swarthmore. “As much as I enjoyed it, and it made things easier since I like my job and want to keep it, -I’m back at work in the office full time. It was nice while it lasted. I don’t have time for whiners that don’t want to go back.”
This idea that people are whining or complaining about returning to the office is where those legal issues could come into play if companies aren’t careful. If a company puts a policy in place for some employees to work remotely while others are told to return to the office, it could cause problems.
“The issue is, what if you have someone who isn’t good at remote work and how you deal with that,” Sullivan pointed out. “Because now you have this policy that allows you to work at home, but you have to pull it back for this person. You could face claims of discrimination, based on gender, ethnicity, or religion because they’re being treated differently from the other employees.”
Perhaps more employers will realize their workforce doesn’t require a traditional office setting to be fully functioning.
“It’s not being forced back to work, it’s being forced back to the office,” said a Media resident. “There is a big difference as those of us who have been home this entire time have been working.”