By Anja van den Berg
With increasingly more people opting for the Covid-19 vaccines, many offices are opening their doors to allow – or require – their employees to return.
But plenty of employees aren’t eager to go back, and it’s easy to see why many people prefer working from home. The dreaded commuting is off the table. New-found flexibility means employees have more choice about their work hours; they can schedule their work time around other responsibilities, like childcare. For many, the drawbacks of working from home pale in comparison to the benefits.
Naturally, many people are resisting managers’ calls to return to the office. If you’re dreading going back to the office, it may help to have a reminder of how in-person work can benefit you. Here are some considerations:
Belonging and social identity
Dr Tracy Brower, author of The Secrets to Happiness at Work, says that a sense of community and belonging brings fulfilment, but a sense of belonging doesn’t just come from being in a group. It arises from a shared feeling of social identity. And research shows that you’re most likely to feel a social identity with your team when you share a setting. Brower explains that, since the First Industrial Revolution, when people moved into cities from the countryside, we’ve experienced most of our shared sense of purpose from coworkers. In our modern work, we still crave connections, and these are often most rewarding when we’re in the trenches with coworkers. Solving problems together and pooling our talents as a team are sources of happiness and fulfilment.
Health and wellbeing
Even introverts need some kind of connection with others. Researchers say that if we don’t have adequate face-to-face time, we experience declines in wellbeing, increases in disease and reduced lifespans. Technology helps us connect, but it is insufficient since we can’t read nonverbal cues as well as we can in person. In addition, we’re limited by delays, technical glitches and high data costs. Being on camera can also make us hypervigilant about how we present and often create an intensity in the workday. Being present together in the office can reduce tech fatigue and is critical to our physical and emotional health.
Career development and learning
Remote working is here to stay, at least to some extent, and organisations worth their salt value all employees’ contributions – no matter where they are working. But, says Brower, it’s also human nature to pay attention to what’s directly in front of us. People are primarily focused on what they can see, hear, and experience immediately, which has implications for your visibility and career. Being in the office provides you with an opportunity to build your social capital. It also means that you are on the radar, and in recent memory, of leaders who may be thinking about expanding their team or promoting key talent.
Sociologically, the most important way people learn is through watching other people. Even when we’re not consciously aware of it, we’re always watching and modelling others’ behaviour. Your teammates need your energy, your sense of humour and your unique talents. Contributing to the community helps you feel fulfilled because it reminds you of your value and validates all the ways the group can benefit from your individual skills.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/07/why-you-may-actually-want-to-go-back-to-the-office