Navigating the Corporate space during the Covid Pandemic
I hope that you all are safely winding down the month of July. We are over half way through 2021! As quickly as the months are passing, many companies are requesting employees who are currently working from home to reenter the office space. Forbes and other reputable market analysts are currently discussing an emerging trend that is impacting all industries from the service industry to the corporate world. The Great Resignation is a mass pandemic movement where employees are quitting their jobs in search of work life balance, flexible hours, remote work and more time with family and friends, In other words, the great resignation is a mass movement where employees are setting boundaries, seeking to be paid their worth and have their value recognized. As companies use a hybrid work model to encourage employees to return to the office for work, the numbers of Covid cases amongst unvaccinated AND vaccinated people are soring, leaving many people of color who are disproportionately impacted by Covid, to decide between keeping their jobs and risking their lives.
Adding fuel to the fire is a level of tiredness and uneasiness about returning to white dominated corporate spaces where many black people are marginalized and undervalued. In a recent NPR article, I learned that, for many employees, the pandemic had a profound impact on how they think about when and where they want to work. The freedom of working from home allows workers to clean, cook and handle tasks as needed during the work day. Employees have more time to spend with their loved ones. They can create ambient workspaces at home by listening to music or even taking breaks to rest when needed, all things that are more difficult to do in a crowded work space. Despite the rising Covid numbers, many companies have plans to implement hybrid work options, in hopes of nudging employees into the work space. While some are found of the hybrid work option, those who have found work more enjoyable and still as productive from home fear the forced return to work. If the work is getting done from home, what is the need to physically be onsite?
Right now, I, like millions of other employees, am making the tough decision as to whether or not I feel comfortable returning to work. Over the last few months, I have dealt with a serious medical issue which makes moving around difficult for me. I have a few offers on the table, but none of them will allow me to work remotely. The same reasoning was cited for the shift towards a hybrid schedule from the companies. The team cohesiveness is threatened by a remote work setup. In the age of cell phones, Teams, Skype for Business, and Zoom, companies feel as though teams are unable to operate at high functionality when remote. When together, teams are able to generate fresh ideas in real time. Companies fear that the innovation is suffering due to the distance. Similarly for leadership, the conception is that leaders can’t effectively provide support to teammates from home.
Let’s be real. People go to work and spend unnecessary time chit chatting. As a recruiter, when I was in the office, most of my workday was consumed by in person conversations that could have been handled successfully by phone or online. Often, I worked late to finish tasks due to visibility, accessibility and engagement politics. In the corporate world, employees are expected to be seen at all times and to be readily accessible without regard to important tasks and responsibilities. Leadership expects employees to be available to help at their convenience, regardless of how inconvenient the timing is for the employee. From home, I have the ease of scheduling calls with managers and setting limits to conversations so that I can get work done in a timely manner. I am able to set boundaries more freely from home than I can in the office. More importantly, people do not want to their wear masks in the office and companies are not enforcing the mask policies. Wearing a mask 8 hours a day is just not feasible. You want to be comfortable when you work. In the current covid climate, not wearing masks in a group of coworkers can be life threatening. With the delta variant, and covid cases rising amongst the vaccinated and unvaccinated, I feel even less secure about returning to a shared workspace. My decision to fight for the right to work remotely may cost me a nice job. If productivity is the same or even better with remote work, and remote work is cheaper for companies due to saving funds on building space and electricity, what is the real reason that companies need us to work in the building? Is a strengthened collaborative team environment really at the heart of the return to the office or is it the need for visibility and control? Are the CEOs being required to return in the same way that the lower level employees are? If not, why is this?
The return to normal is a threat to my ability to build my glam life. Normal was not working pre-Covid. The norm was detrimental to mental health for so many employees, but especially for black women. Working in a toxic work space almost cost my peace of mind and even my life. I was a slave to the corporate plantation. I had no life, no fun, no joy. I was abused, used and underpaid. Honestly, I was completely miserable, trying to prove my worth to people and systems that would never honor my value or appreciate my work. My vow at the top of the year when I quit my job, was to put my needs first and to stick to my boundaries. My biggest goal was to stand by my “No”. Here I stand again, in a space where I have to decide between appeasing companies, upholding my peace, protecting my health and maintaining my livelihood. This faith walk is real for me. Trusting God is scary but I have to do it. God carried be before and I know that He can do it again. How can I expect God to trust me with the responsibility to lead through service if I can not stand up for myself or my beliefs in my everyday life?
What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of a hybrid work model or are you strict to remote work?
Explain the reason for your answer below!
Until next time,