Career Corner: Back to Work

Courtesy photo / Lyncconf Games (CC BY 2.0)

By Angela Copeland

One of the hot topics around the virtual water cooler is when we’re going back to work. Some states are beginning to open up, while others continue to be locked down for what may be months. Recently, this question was posed to me: When should we all return to the office?

Before I share my thoughts, let me say this: There are many jobs where the luxury of working from home is not an option. There are so many people who are putting their lives on the line every day in order to keep us fed, to keep the mail going, and more. I’m so grateful for those essential workers and their families. 

For companies that have been operating from home, you may wonder when is the right time to go back. It’s a tough question. We’re all ready for things to get back to “normal.” We’re ready to forget this pandemic ever happened.

Working from home for the first time was a major transition. It was an upheaval for many businesses. We had to learn how to video conference in large groups. We had to learn to pay bills remotely. We had to learn to keep things going, while juggling children, pets, and spouses.

But, this is the thing, we did it. If your business is now fully functional remotely, you made it over the hump. You are likely in a routine now. Despite how much many people hate being at home all day, they’re adjusting.

My suggestion is this. If your business is able to successfully operate from home, continue to work from home until it’s truly safe to return to work. And, wait until the kids have gone back to school (or daycare).

Going back too soon has the potential to create two negative scenarios. In one, only half of employees are able to come back. The other half are at home, tending to young children – or avoiding infection. Imagine how your Zoom conference calls would be if half of the group were at work, while the other half was at the office. Imagine if you were never sure who was working from home and who was working remotely.

In an even worse scenario, we would all make the transition back to the office. Then, there would be a case of COVID-19 at work. It would infect someone who would pass it around the office. Then, we’d all be forced back home again.

By waiting to go back until we’re really sure it’s safe (and until other businesses, like childcare are up and running), we’ll keep the number of difficult transitions to a minimum. We’ll make sure we’re all healthy. Nobody will have to put their family in danger by going to work. No one will have to pick between their paycheck and their health.

And who knows, in the middle of this difficult time, we may learn to be better at business.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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