Critical thinking

CEOs Need to Stop Pushing People Back Into the Office

Brian Wallace

As we have all endured the collective experience of a global pandemic, it has been a challenge to say the least in keeping up with work life balance, productivity, loneliness, and the possibility of burnout. Now, we may be rounding the corner as pandemic cases are receding from their highs, and with this, many are making their way back to work in a physical office for the first time in quite a while. Getting everyone back to work in person seems to be a tale of two cities: executives and typical employees. And it looks to be fraught with challenges along the way.

Telling your employees to simply come back to the office is easier said than done. When you think about the sheer amount of time, money, and effort that went into the pre-pandemic work routine, how many of us would truly want to go back into the swing of what once was? 

A Tale of Two Titles

If you are in a position of power at the office, chances are that you have some game changing advantages such as that you live in close proximity to where you work, have ample and available childcare all set, and have a large office with a door that closes. It’s one thing to be excited about getting back to work in that scenario, however for many, this kind of a setup is not a realistic option. Many daycare facilities are still understaffed, under restrictions, and backed up for months. Non-executive employees may need to commute a long way and rely on public transportation, and open office floor plans, once quite popular, could spell trouble should there be another pandemic variant surge.

Just because you as a CEO may have traveled a bit and seen the world as exciting and alive once again doesn’t mean that your staff is 100% on board. Chances are, many do not want things to go back to that way and may not see the world through your current vision.

Being a small business owner myself, it’s important to me that we have these considerations on all levels. When it comes to office space and layout, we were towards the end of our physical leases right at the start of the pandemic, and chose not to renew, having since been committed to a 100% virtual operation.

Should You Go Fully Remote, Back to the Office, or Hybrid?

On the on-office vs virtual vs hybrid argument – there are a number of things that leaders either don’t see or don’t like to talk about when it comes to hybrid models. Office politics can play into a certain element of tribalism when you have a headquarters, satellite offices, and key players that are fully remote. Many remote workers are passed over as they may never have or have little facetime with leadership and having everyone remote levels the playing field. This is nothing new, however has been an accelerated hot topic ever since the pandemic pushed this meaningful discussion to the forefront.

Hiring, Firing, and Going Outside

As a business leader, you’ll need to keep a cool head in such a time of uncertainty. What are some habits that you can improve on? For one, hire slow and fire fast. Nobody likes to let people go, but there are times that when handled correctly, it is definitely for the best.

People need time off as well. Many organizations talk about unlimited PTO, however few employees actually take companies up on this offer. A recent study showed that a disturbing 55% of employees don’t use all of their paid time off. And this is understandable, considering what an odd time we have all been trying to navigate uncertainty amid a pandemic and war. Many of us have become rusty on what we hoped to be of greater work life balance and we could all use some vacation. Considering that everything isn’t necessarily open, where should one go? An often overlooked but realistic trip could be exploring the outdoors. There are over 14,000 privately owned RV parks and campgrounds across the United States, so there is ample room to explore near your own backyard and beyond. There has been a growing popularity when it comes to camping which should be able to fit any budget.

In Conclusion

In times of such great uncertainty, keeping focused and empathetically aligned with your team should be able to get you through whatever challenges may lie ahead. There’s no one size fits all answer when it comes to a myriad of decisions of what is right for your business, but if you deeply care about your employees, carefully think through how everyone can make working together a meaningful experience.


Written by Brian Wallace, the Founder and President of NowSourcing.
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# Why Off-Site Retreat Is More Important Now Than Pre-Pandemic by Sasha Hoffman.

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Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry-leading content marketing agency that makes the world's ideas simple, visual, and influential. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019-present


Brian Wallace is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.