Overcoming ‘them and us’ – how to address tensions between WFH and office-based staff
Amid all the turmoil, the pandemic and how it’s been handled has divided opinion. People have found themselves in various camps – for example, essential worker or furloughed worker, or able to work from home (WFH) or not. If you’re in one camp, by definition you can’t be in the other. And businesses and their owners have found themselves stuck in the middle of all this, to a certain extent, balancing government guidance with common sense. They want what’s best and right for their business, but also what’s the best outcomes for their employees too.
Several different elements influence opinion on each side. To return to work do you need to be fully vaccinated? And does that include the new bonus booster? Is all this at your employer’s discretion or is it up to you? Do you need masks and social distancing in the workplace – and is everyone unified and comfortable with these across-the-board rules?
Friction in the workplace
Many aren’t comfortable and the WFH culture has caused as much division as the problems it has solved. People who are able to continue to WFH are doing so, but many companies have decided that the initiative is finished, and their staff should be in the office during normal hours again without excuse. This doesn’t work for everyone however. Families with young children, for example, have become used to the ease with which they could carry out childcare, or else take their youngsters to and from school. Or to help care for elderly relatives. The flexibility for many people, especially those with a long commute, has been welcome – as long as there is no compromise with regards to work output.
Many offices have already decided to adapt their working model and jettison office space. Superfluous offices are now lying idle, which is causing a business quandary of its own for landlords. Others have moved furniture around, to rearrange layouts to give staff more space, only for but a fraction of them to return to the office. This is creating a very ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture between workers, which is resulting in tension in the workplace.
WFH vs office-based?
Should it be one rule for one employee, another for another? If it suits one person to work from home, but another to be in the office nine-to-five, which one of them is right? Each individual case is different. These are the kind of challenges facing HR departments and professionals, as we go forward out of the pandemic. Diffusing these opposite views and bringing staff together again to work as a cohesive whole is not going to as easy as first thought.
A new dilemma
It’s creating a new dilemma for HR professionals and undue stress for staff. Some people are resigning if they are not being listened to on their WFH demands, while others are dismayed that the firm they stopped working for in the office (in March 2020 to WFT) is now a pale shadow of its former self on their return. It’s a fortunate person indeed that feels no sense of change on the other side of this pandemic. But what’s important now is making staff feel comfortable, wanted and most of all confident in the company’s future – and to feel part of that future too.
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