As the population of fully vaccinated professionals grows, so too do the plans of returning to in-person office work – much to the chagrin of workers everywhere. After all, who would want to trade the short commute from bed to kitchen table for the long ritual of getting ready and finding your way to the office?
But while there are many convincing arguments supporting home-based work, emerging studies have identified the potential drawbacks of being cooped up all day. Namely, workers feel more anxious and isolated as offices become more remote and scattered.
So while coming back to in-person work might be an inconvenient or unpopular choice, it does have its advantages regarding mental health. Let’s look at what the data has to say to get a better picture."Returning to the office builds a fixed barrier between work and home – meaning you’ll be able to switch “work mode” on without idly drifting toward distraction."
The mental health benefits of returning to the office
Simply claiming that “in-person work supports good mental health!” probably isn’t enough to convince your team members that it’s a good idea.
Luckily, many concrete, empirically-supported studies show you exactly how face-to-face work can help.
1. We’re able to connect with our peers.
As human beings, we crave connection – and sometimes that comes in the form of standing by the water cooler and chatting with your work buddies every couple of hours.
While the cozy comforts of working in your decade-old sweatpants or spending all day with your children might sound like heaven, this usually means we don’t spend much time with other adults. (And Lord knows you need a little time with your peers after the 700th run of Encanto or Frozen.)
But at the end of the day, it’s about much more than escaping Let It Go for the thousandth time. A lack of interaction with your peers can lead to feeling more isolated and anxious than ever.
Even in small doses, seeing people at the office and having friendly chats with them can improve how you feel about everyday life.
2. We feel more focused and productive.
Imagine this: one moment, you’re diligently building this quarter’s report. The next second, you’re inevitably sucked into another YouTube rabbit hole. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Thousands of workers have reported losing focus while working at home, and this is especially true among adults with ADHD.
While perhaps inconvenient at first blush, returning to the office builds a fixed barrier between work and home – meaning you’ll be able to switch “work mode” on without idly drifting toward distraction.
3. We can “turn off” much faster after work.
One of the main things lots of WFH professionals report is feeling like they have to be “always on” even after they’ve finished work for the day.
When work is home, it’s naturally difficult to unwind and allow yourself to enjoy non-work activities – especially with Slack, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams notifications going off during your wind-down time.
Compare this with the act of physically coming home to your sacred space. The feeling of unburdening and “dressing down” from the day is hard to replace with closing your work laptop and moving on with your day.
We’re not saying that coming back to the office will be all rainbows and daisies, but the separation from work and home helps you unwind at the end of the day and devote your energy to non-work things you enjoy.
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How can businesses make the return to the office a healthier and more enjoyable experience?
Employers, managers, and business owners must understand that returning to the office is an unpopular choice for many workers. That’s why they need to do their part to make the transition as painless as possible.
After all, the impetus behind advocating for a return to in-person work is to foster a healthier, more productive workplace for everyone – and that’s not possible without a bit of effort on the business’ end.
Here are a few things management can do to help their team during the transition.
1. Be transparent about the shift from WFH to the office
When faced with a problem, some folks may feel the pull to sugarcoat the truth – but this is probably the worst thing you can do when building a case for your team members to return to the office.
Businesses have a vested interest rooted in profit and productivity when discussing in-person work, and a little honesty and transparency goes a long way when introducing a less-than-ideal idea.
Treating your team members respectfully and honestly can help them come around, though.
Acknowledging the inconvenience while introducing the advantages of in-person work can strengthen your case. Specifically, it would be helpful to touch on a few of the mental health advantages we mentioned earlier: feeling more connected, focused, and balanced in daily life.
2. Be open to more flexible schedules and arrangements
Building a healthier workplace also means being cognizant about inclusivity when developing office policies – which stretches to individuals who may have specific needs that can be accommodated by hybrid work.
That said, it’s crucial to note that this isn’t limited to folks with immunodeficiency issues.
Extending the same courtesy for folks with extremely long commutes or transportation issues may also be feasible for some businesses.
Being open to conversations about working conditions can be a boon on your employees’ morale because it shows you’re open to meeting them in the middle.
3. Prioritize health and safety
Even as the number of vaccinated individuals continues to grow, we can’t deny the pandemic’s imprint on the way we manage common spaces – offices included.
Lots of the anxiety of returning to in-person work is the close contact with other people, therefore increasing the risk of contracting and carrying sickness into our homes. Thankfully, workplaces like the ones we manage at BAM Properties are rising to the call of safety.
We’ve taken concrete steps to help our tenants feel more at ease with regular general cleanings, sanitization stations, and equipping them with the dynamic office space they need to maximize worker productivity and safety.
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Our expert team of office experts has helped businesses of all sizes and needs find the perfect spaces for their growing teams – and we can do the same for you.
Whether you’ve got hundreds of professionals returning to the office or a small team of ten people or less, we have the solution. We’re ready to get to work and help you find the space you need.