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Can Returning to the Office Have Negative Health Effects?

March 24, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As more organizations solidify return-to-office plans, a new Korn Ferry survey reveals that most professionals don’t think returning will be healthy for them.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents say that going back to the office would have a negative impact on their mental health. And while it may have been a difficult transition two years ago to begin working from home, nearly three-quarters (74%) say it will be harder to get used to going back into the office.

Proximity to others is also seen as a concern, as more than a third (38%) say that if they were invited to a meeting where they had to sit in close quarters, they’d ask that the meeting be moved to a larger space. 10% say they would skip the meeting entirely.

However, the survey found that being in the office doesn’t seem to be the biggest concern, as 74% of respondents say their commute is what they are least looking forward to when returning to the office. Many employees recovered as much as three hours in their day normally lost to their commute.

“Returning to the office can bring up a lot of emotions for professionals, and while it may seem like a natural way to return to pre-pandemic ‘normal,’ organizations must be supportive of all of the issues workers will encounter as they make the change to once again being onsite,” said Korn Ferry Workforce Transformation Practice Leader Elise Freedman.

Survey respondents were not optimistic that returning to the office would make life at home easier. It’s most likely the opposite. More than two-thirds (68%) say they will not have more of a daily routine (e.g. family dinners, exercise) when they return to the office, and 88% say returning to the office will make it more difficult to handle home duties such as childcare.

“Many organizations are planning for a hybrid model whereby employees can still interact with colleagues in the office for meetings and other in-person events on a part-time basis, while still having the option to work from home part-time,” said Freedman. “Companies and their employees need to be flexible to determine what works best for the company and the individual.”

With the pandemic numbers reducing to low or medium across the U.S. and many offices scheduling their reopening, it’s important to take a look at how workplace and employee expectations have changed. Leaders must make adjustments to the workplace in order to address these changes. Mary E. Corrado, ASE President and CEO, recently wrote a blogIt’s a New Normal and Leadership Must AdjustIt contains great tips for leadership as you create your post-pandemic work environment.

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