Since the start of the pandemic, millions of Americans have been working from home instead of going into their usual place of work. As the economy slowly re-opens, many workers in public-facing jobs, like shops, bars and restaurants, have already gone back to their workplace. Office workers are among those who could soon be asked to do the same, and the question on many people’s minds is – can my boss force me to go back to work?
Dolman Law Group conducted a survey of 5,650 workers (aged 18+) which found that 63% of Arizona employees believe that returning to the workplace should be optional. Understandably, many employees remain nervous about their health, and in particular if their fellow colleagues follow safety protocols properly and if their employers provide a safe working environment. The survey also revealed that 72% of employees would report a colleague for not following Covid-19 health protocols.
See how workers’ opinions about returning to work compare across America with this infographic
Two main concerns regarding mental health have surfaced since so many people have begun to work from home: isolation and burnout*. Moreover, as so many families – parents and children – are working and studying under the same roof due to social distancing regulations, the lines between personal and work life are blurred, making it difficult to separate the two. Over 1 in 3 (34%) employees believe the mental health benefits of returning to the workplace in the company of colleagues outweigh the risks of contracting the Coronavirus. Because our daily interactions with other humans usually serve to reinforce our sense of belonging and wellbeing in a community setting, without them over an extended period of time, feelings of loneliness can become consuming.
Additionally, a separate study** found that 52% of employees reported working longer hours when working from home as compared to those working in an office, and 40% felt the need to contribute more than their in-office colleagues, meaning an increased risk of burnout.
With many businesses unable to open at full capacity, some may be debating whether or not to implement a staggered reintroduction of employees back into the workplace. This could mean businesses allowing employees of a certain demographic, such as age, to return in stages based on their likely risk of contracting the virus. However, this appears to be a contentious debate as half of respondents believe this concept of staggered reintroduction of employees into the workplace is discriminatory.