“I’m actually more productive from home.” “I’ve loved not having a commute.” “I hope our company allows flexible work going forward.” “I can’t wait to get back into the office.”
Businesses are faced with a lot of opinions, voices, and theories about the ideal approach for ensuring a safe return to the office. Even with the best intentions, organizations run the risk of missing the broader social context that can help them make the decision that is best for employee equity and engagement.
It’s no secret that the pandemic hasn’t impacted us all equally. Unfortunately, the post-pandemic return to work isn’t likely to impact employees equally, either.
At Wellstand Health, we spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of an uneven or unsupported return to work and its implications on equity. Chief Science Officer and Cofounder, Dr. Meghan Lockhard, is deeply focused on solving this: “The move to get people back to work and back into the office is not just a matter of workplace safety … it’s a matter of understanding how uneven access to our social workplaces create inequities in our system.”
When balancing employee equity with your plan to get back into the office, it’s important to:
- Switch to a more comprehensive understanding of “productivity”
Pandemic productivity came at a cost. Businesses have reported more productivity, but there are also several studies that state employees are working anywhere from 1-2.5 hours more per day as a result of the pandemic.
Dr. Lockhard continues, “While a lot of companies have actually seen an increase in productivity over the past year, 50% of adults now consider themselves depressed or anxious. This isn’t a recipe for long-term productivity or health.”
Another critical consideration is that productivity doesn’t always translate to career growth. “It's very well documented in Harvard Business Review, that raise decisions tend to stem first and foremost from your relationship with your manager. Productivity is only a small part of the overall equation.”
- Consider the potential impact of the post-pandemic model you choose on women, parents, and underrepresented minorities
If you offer flexible working environments, it shouldn’t surprise you that women and parents are the most likely to opt-in to remote and flexible work schedules. The impact, especially when taking the social aspect of promotion decisions into account, could stifle growth for women at a time where we simply can’t afford to lose more women in the workplace. Dr. Lockhard shares: “Not only are women less likely to be the ones to go into the office in a flex-environment, but women are also dropping out of the workforce at very alarming rates. We're back down to the level that our country was in 1979. We've lost about 40 years of progress.”
- Adopt an integrated COVID-19 testing program that allows employees to get back to the office safely and comfortably
While there are several important considerations for launching a testing program, it’s important to be responsible for providing one in this context especially. Regular access to testing helps your teams get back to work in a way that feels fair, safe, and integrated with your corporate strategy. A comprehensive testing program also helps prevent potential rollbacks and missed infections that not only incur additional costs, but ultimately go on to impact your employees unequally.
At Wellstand Health, our team is here to help guide you through this process. We’ll join forces with you to help choose, provide training, and stand up the comprehensive testing program that’s right for you so that your teams can get back to doing their best work.