Washingtonian CEO Is Right and Wrong About Returning to the Office

Working in the office was the rule until companies and governments encouraged everyone to stay home due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The vaccine is available to everyone over 16 who wants it, and infection rates are down in most areas. Several states have lifted their Covid restrictions altogether.

It’s time for some people to go back to the office.

Washingtonian CEO Cathy Merrill argued this in an opinion piece for the Washington Post with her staff striking for the day. Andrew Beaujon, a senior editor at the Washingtonian, tweeted this:

To keep reading, click here: Washingtonian CEO Is Right and Wrong About Returning to the Office

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6 thoughts on “Washingtonian CEO Is Right and Wrong About Returning to the Office

  1. In 2020, my company had one of its best years ever. Almost everyone worked from home. (Financial services, so it’s possible to do so.)

    The CEO wants people to return to office in Sept – no hybrid home/office option, but is not going to require a vax and will not disclose who is vaxxed and who is not.

    I am vaxxed but have no interest in being exposed to unvaxxed people and possibly carrying covid to anyone who might be at risk.

    If I am required to be 100% in office, I will look for another job.

    1. Would you be willing to go back if vaccines were required? (asking because we’re debating a vaccine mandate ourselves)

      1. My company just released guidelines and my fellow employees and I are quite honestly thrilled about it.

        “Just to be clear, at this time no one at CompanyName is required to be vaccinated or to come to work at the office. But if you do want to work at the ______(large city in which everyone can get a vaccine) office you must be fully vaccinated.”

        This protects me, a vaccinated person, if I want to go to the office, and doesn’t force anyone who is avoiding vaccines to get one. We are going to revisit policies in the fall.

  2. To echo Disability Twitter on the subject, I would like to point out the irony surrounding something that many disabled workers have been requesting for YEARS. They’ve been trying to point out that WFH is not the lazy, unproductive nap zone many employers think it is, but an accommodation that allows them to actually make a living.

    It’s true that in some cases, productivity may have dropped during Covid-19, but the reasons for that are plain—parents dealing with kids at home instead of in school or daycare; jockeying for space with a partner or roommates who are also working from home; the existential stress of a global, collective human trauma. Not one of the CEO complaints has taken this into account.

    Plenty of disabled people can work. But they’re more likely than non-disabled people to face barriers to employment. Failure to make accommodations is a big one. It seems like they don’t become a thing until able-bodied people need or want them. And, for those (obviously the CEOs) who think it’s not their problem, anyone who catches Covid-19 runs a risk of ending up permanently disabled.

    If you have a remote employee who isn’t getting their job done, then you manage that person the same way you would if they were slacking in the office. The pandemic has proved that working from home can be feasible, and there really isn’t any excuse now to arbitrarily yank it.

  3. There are some underlying assumptions here that I would question. First, there’s the assumption that you must sacrifice a good workplace culture if people are not in the office. I don’t believe that’s true. Most managers are accustomed to creating a workplace culture in an office and are less familiar with how to cultivate one among people working remotely, so they say it can’t be done. Many managers fear that if they can’t watch their workers, then their workers must be shirking. But managers who won’t make the effort to improve their skills should be looking in the mirror to find the lazy worker. Second, you note that remote work isn’t for everyone. That’s true. But turn that around: working at the office isn’t for everyone. There are the disabled, as Elizabeth West notes. There are people who can’t concentrate on work in a noisy office full of interruptions. There are people who commute two hours a day who would rather work those two extra hours from home. There are top level candidates in other states who won’t uproot their families to move to a job at the office. Managers who insist that work can only be done well in the office are old dogs reluctant to learn new tricks.

    1. A lot of this depends on the field of work, the nature of the tasks, and the specific office. Any work with a physical component (as opposed to knowledge work, computer work, and the like) can’t be done from home, and oversight of the same can’t be done from home. Remote working naturally creates a different culture than in-office work, a culture that isn’t necessarily for everyone. Note that this isn’t related to how good the managers are; the nature of the work environment necessarily results in different cultures. If I have two equal candidates, I’m likely to take the one willing to relocate–it shows a greater level of commitment. Someone working entirely online is likely to jump ship more rapidly than someone who’s relocated, for a variety of reasons. And so on.

      Ultimately what the rise of remote work has done is show that individual offices, work groups, and workers can do more to tailor their work environment to their work methods. We’ve proven that remote work isn’t going to result in us just sitting around watching Netflix all day. At the same time, there are real costs (infrastructure, increased isolation). What the ideal situation is, will depend on the local, changing environment.

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