These workers ‘dread’ going back to the office – here’s why

It isn’t just the risk of exposure to COVID-19 that holds them back

These workers ‘dread’ going back to the office – here’s why

The transition to remote work signifies more than a change in office settings.

As one recent study shows, the shift has also paved the way for some employees to take a breather from a toxic work environment.

A third of employees in the UK (31%) say the work-from-home arrangement has had a positive impact on their outlook at work – so much so that the idea of returning to the traditional office environment induces anxiety in one in three workers (34%), data from HR tech firm Culture Shift revealed.

Read more: Are employees on the brink of burnout?

Most employees (73%) have experienced a positive work culture in their transition to remote work, and this overall positivity also translates into higher confidence levels among workers.

“Many are able to work autonomously (44%) without being micromanaged,” the study noted.

When it comes to heading back to the office, however, workers across four different sectors share the same sentiment of “dreading going back to the workplace”:

  • 53% of employees in the banking/financial services sector
  • 49% in technology
  • 48% in insurance
  • 44% in law

And it’s not just the risk of exposure to COVID-19 that holds them back.

It’s also the complexity of workplace relations: “over one-third (34%) said they were anxious about seeing somebody they had a negative relationship with,” the study pointed out.

Forcing employees to return to work with unresolved issues of workplace behaviour, such as bullying and harassment, can cause old problems to persist in the ‘new normal’.

Overall, 37% – or about two in five workers – believe there may be a higher tendency for them to experience bullying or harassment in the office, compared with 26% who say such incidents are more likely to occur when they work from home.

Read more: Mental health: How to lead by example

There is still much work to be done to tackle harassment and bullying at work. But, somehow, the physical separation of WFH employees from colleagues who are likely to exhibit bad office behaviour has lessened the incidence of such workplace misconduct.

Case in point: verbal abuse.

“Passive aggressive remarks are enough to negatively impact anybody’s professional well-being, but working from home has had a positive effect on this front with almost one-third (29%) of employees now receiving them less often, compared to just 17% who have been on the receiving end more often,” the report said.

Whether employees continue to work from home or return to the office, some find the need to provide their managers with anonymous feedback (30%), particularly through a platform where they can speak out and report misconduct (25%).

“Bullying and harassment is prevalent in many workplaces and employers need to do more to tackle the problem,” the study said. The suggestion to open an anonymous feedback platform is therefore an “avenue organisations should be exploring”.

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