Last month Technology Association of Oregon invited its members to share their thoughts and feelings about the prospect of returning to work as things open up after the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty-three people representing 44 different organizations in 19 different industries responded to the survey. It’s no surprise that technology and software were most common, but people also included industries like government, healathcare, and consulting. There were ten cities throughout Washington, Oregon, and California represented in the survey.
- In general, people are not ready to return to their physical workplace. Factors like health, childcare, public transit, and a lack of clear guidelines or an enforcement policy for those guidelines are keeping people from feeling ready to come back yet.
- Regular communication from leadership has a huge positive effect on how people feel about working during the pandemic. Weekly communications centered around honesty and transparency are a great idea. If you’re a leader, model best practices.
- Think about the kind of support you need or could provide. Whether it’s the ability to make a better work from home setup, access to counseling, or even clear guidance on how to balance work and life, people have different needs right now.
The data collected represents people from multiple generations and all levels of their organization, including individual contributors, middle managers, and executives. 57% of people indicated that they used to work remotely either full time or part time before the pandemic.
We asked respondents to look at 6 images and choose the one that they felt best represented coming to work before the COVID-19 pandemic, how it feels to come to work today, and how they want it to feel in the future. Here, you can see the top response to each question.
Current State Summary:
Satisfaction by Work Setup
DORIS asked employees about their satisfaction with the topics below. Those who are unsatisfied with their current work setup are mainly working in bedrooms. Anyone with tech dissatisfaction mentioned that they are using older laptops, and are now having to deal with many different virtual meeting platforms and slow internet connections. This is also leading to dissatisfaction with collaboration. Most of these people worked in individual workstations before the pandemic, they are used to face-to-face collaboration, and now have to work with multiple virtual meeting platforms to collaborate with coworkers and clients.
Where are People Working Today?
Today, your people are working everywhere throughout the house. However, most are working from a dedicated work space they have set up, either in a bedroom or a home office.
Leadership Response Summary:
We asked people how satisfied they were with leadership’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what they should keep in mind for the future.
What Worked Well
- People appreciated when their leadership reacted proactively to the pandemic, creating plans for everyone to work from home before the governor’s orders. 29 people called out quick decision making as something their leadership did well.
- Communicating frequently, such as on a weekly basis, is an effective way to keep people in the loop. 26 people specifically talked about honest, transparent communication from leadership as something that was an essential part of a strong response.
- Keeping the response employee-centered by prioritizing safety and giving people the resources to effectively work from home was also a top answer when asked what leadership did well. People especially appreciated when they were given resources like extra training, a budget for office supplies, counseling, or just additional flexibility to deal with a stressful, ever-changing situation.
- People consider regularly soliciting feedback from employees another aspect of a successful leadership response. Touching base to see who is ready to come back, who is not, and never putting pressure on individuals to do something they aren’t comfortable with is important as organizations think about the future.
What Didn’t Work Well
- Nothing! 23 people said that their leadership did a great job of responding to an unprecedented situation.
- People feel two types of negative implicit pressure coming from their leadership. First, the pressure to come back to the office as quickly as possible. Second, the pressure to work more and sacrifice any work/life balance.
- Some people feel that their leadership could have acted more quickly. They want some amount of transparency when it comes to why hard decisions like layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts were made.
- People want their leadership to emulate best practices for working in the pandemic. They are looking to leadership to create clear guidelines for keeping people safe at work and to model those guidelines themselves.
Top Priorities for Leadership:
- Listen to your employees. Create a plan that centers the safety and health of your employees and takes into account their specific challenges. Make everyone feel heard.
- Stay flexible. Different people need different things. Acknowledge that many people will want to or will have to continue working from home, and support them in doing so.
- Communicate guidelines for safety that everyone must follow in the workplace. Make sure everyone knows how important those guidelines are and have a structure for accountability in place so that they are enforced.
How Ready are Your People?:
When we asked people to rate how ready they are to return to work on a scale of 0-10, their responses reflected just how much uncertainty there is today. The average of everyone was at about 50% readiness. They aren’t quite ready yet. There is some variation based on age and job level, but no group feels 100% read to come back yet. The teal line in the chart below shows average readiness by age, while the orange line shows readiness by job level. The green line shows the overall readiness.
We asked people what distance between people would be most comfortable for them when going back to the office. On average, they said 7 feet.
We asked people to consider both what sanitation measures they think are most important as well as what might limit their return to the office. Although we got a variety of responses, we are including the top 3 most common responses here.
Top Limitations to Coming Back to the Office
- Family. Being high risk or having a high risk person in their household limits some people. Homeschooling and lack of childcare is another factor limiting people from returning.
- Safety. Without adequate testing or a vaccine, some people feel as though there is really no way to truly prevent spreading the disease. They want an option to work from home for the time being
- Workplace guidelines. Many people talked about not knowing what changes were being made to their office and worrying that even if there were guidelines, people wouldn’t follow them. These folks will not want to return until it is clear what measures are being taken to keep them safe within their physical work environment.
Top 3 Most Important Sanitation Measures
- Etiquette around shared resources
- Physical distancing
- Surface cleaning/Air filtration