Every business is unique. And in perhaps the most unique past two years any of us could imagine, it goes without saying that business leaders are facing new and extremely complicated challenges seemingly every day.
While we all hope we’re through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, every phase adds complexities to how your business operates. In the beginning, if your company had the luxury of not needing anyone physically present, technology was able to keep things running at least relatively close to normal. It’s quite a different story, of course, for certain service and manufacturing firms, along with many others.
And though the virus still poses a very serious threat, vaccinations and specific risk mitigation measures have offered some relief and have allowed offices across the world to reopen. It has been a slow, but steady return. Recently, our company surveyed more than 600 workers in a wide range of industries across the United States and Canada. When asked where they were currently working, 23 percent reported being back in the office or shared workspace. That’s still 77 percent who are working remotely.
Our survey took it a step further. In light of the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked those who were back in the office if being there caused them to feel added stress. Just over half (51 percent) said they felt no stress by sharing a workspace. Thirty-four percent reported feeling some stress and 14 percent said their stress level was high.
For those who are still remote, 47 percent stated that they wouldn’t feel stress about working around other people, 38 percent would feel some stress, and 15 percent said the idea of returning to the office would give them a high level of stress.
As founder and CEO of UpCity, I am responsible for the overall health of our business. But our experienced executive leadership team and I have always tried to take on any challenge we’ve faced with a people-first approach. The pandemic has been no different. My view is that business health will always be directly affected by how the people who work for us feel. Unhappy? Stressed? Uncomfortable? That’s going to impact our business negatively somewhere down the road.
Other than during the initial lockdown phase, our Chicago-based office has remained open. However, we do require vaccination for those who want to return. That’s a nice segue into our final survey question, which asked how respondents believe their stress levels would be affected if their companies enacted a vaccination mandate. Some 46 percent said they would feel less stressed about working in a shared office space if they knew everyone around them had to be vaccinated, while 54 percent said they would not feel less stressed.
Our company felt like it was necessary to enact a “work from anywhere” policy to accommodate our entire staff. Sure, we had folks who were champing at the bit to get back to the office (and our cold brew coffee tap), but others—even those who live close by—have expressed their discomfort with returning, and that’s a perfectly legitimate concern.
We focus on ways to keep people connected—from virtual happy hours to trivia breaks to a virtual murder mystery we had to solve—our goal has always been to keep everyone comfortable and feeling like they’re part of the team, even if we can’t be together in person. We conduct employee satisfaction surveys twice a year and take the feedback seriously. It has had a tremendously positive impact on our workplace culture, and that’s been particularly critical during the pandemic.
The fact is, every team is different. It’s important to listen to your employees, regularly survey their needs, and balance those with the needs of the business to provide the best environment for everyone.