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Employers Need to Prepare for “Reluctant to Return to Work” Employees

We are about to embark on another great experiment in our work culture.

OK, pandemic is over! Time to come back to the office!!!

It won’t be that easy. A year of remote work and remote learning, remote coordination, remote planning and remote meetings has changed much about the workplace.

See this short article below on the topic of returning to work. It will not be a cut-and-dried process. All you human resources types better be sharpening your pencils for the new policies for your company’s workers. It is a whole new ballgame that we have not experienced until now — just like sending everyone home to work from their kitchen table, bedroom, office, bathroom, etc. caused a slew of “workplace” questions. 

Employment trends expert Rob Wilson advises employers on how to handle hesitant employees

Chicago, IL. With vaccines rolling out across the country and millions of Americans preparing for a post-Covid reality, research suggests that many people would rather continue working from home than returning to the office. A new ‘Return to Workplace Survey’ from Envoy has found that 66% of employees say that they fear for their health and safety, and nearly 48% of people saying they would prefer a hybrid schedule in which they can continue to work from home a few days a week.

But is the desire to continue working virtually rooted in a fear of the virus or is it a preference for flexibility and the ease of working at home?

“Previous Pew research from late 2020 found that 90 percent of people said they didn’t want to return to the workplace even after it was deemed safe to do so. So, I think employers need to prepare themselves for the reality that they are going to get a lot of pushback from employees about starting to go back to work in person,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert. “Even with the vaccines and other Covid safety measures in place, the reality is that many WFH employees have simply become accustomed to the lifestyle and don’t want to return to long commutes, business attire, and other obligations that come with working in person.”

Wilson says that employers need to do all they can to impress upon employees that in-person days are coming soon and that it’s time to get back to a new normal. “Give your employees lots of warning,” says Wilson. “Keep in mind the fact that many employees have children who may not yet be back at school, and that others may live with elderly or high-risk family members. Make sure that you are being very transparent with your employees in regards to Covid safety procedures, and consider offering vaccine incentives to help ensure that your staff is as protected as possible.”

Even though remote work is desirable for many reasons, Wilson says employers cannot just assume these perks are the only reason people fear a return to the workplace.

“Certainly many people are still rightly worried about the virus and risking undue exposure while on the job,” says Wilson. “Yet, interestingly, it is not older employees or those with higher risk factors who most wish to continue working from home. It’s younger people—those who are Gen Z who were most likely to say that they don’t feel safe working at the office and want to continue being virtual.”

When considering whether or not to allow employees to take on a hybrid schedule, Wilson says that numerous studies performed pre-Covid bear out the fact that younger generations of employees are strongly in favor of a virtual workplace.

“Research shows that 40% of people would take a pay cut if it meant they could work from home,” says Wilson. “Over half of employees say that working from home would give them a better quality of life and lead to greater job satisfaction. So if you are looking for clever and low-cost ways to become a more attractive employer with a higher rate of employee retention, consider the fact that today’s generation cares more about a work/life balance than a hefty paycheck.”


Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.