After a year and a half of hunkering down, carefully quarantining, social bubbling, and generally acting like hermit crabs, the world—and the workforce—is slowly getting back on track. Just as the start of the pandemic was traumatic, reentry into the workplace following an unprecedented global crisis feels similarly jarring. For attorneys who have had the privilege of working from home, the transition back into the office is wrought with anxiety. In fact, 37 percent of managers say most of their employees are anxious about returning to the office.
With many law firms targeting a Fall return date, all this nervous energy is being channeled into “reentry anxiety.” Reentry anxiety comes in two main forms. First and foremost are the obvious underlying safety concerns. What happens if the vaccine suddenly wears off? What if there is a new vaccine-resistant variant? Or an entirely new deadly virus? Second, after being relatively isolated for the last 18 months, almost everyone is experiencing some level of social anxiety. Psychologically, humans have perceived each other as threats in a way that does not come with a handy on/off switch. The brain’s amygdala, which identifies potential threats, is currently stuck in “fight vs. flight” overdrive. As the kids these days would say, everyone is “sus” (suspect). It’s unclear exactly how this collective post-traumatic stress will impact office dynamics; however, experts suggest it could lead to increased irritability and low motivation. Whatever happens, it will take time for everyone’s brain to be rewired.
Returning to the office may prove particularly frustrating for those individuals who have enjoyed working from home. A significant percentage of younger workers—63 percent—appreciate the lifestyle that working from home affords them. Specifically, millennials “think it is more convenient to work from home, and nearly half said they don’t mind staying in their homes for long periods.” Regardless of age, transitioning back into the office will result in the loss of a significant chunk of personal time. During the pandemic, commute times were replaced with extra time in the mornings for anything from sleeping in to working out, from getting a jump start on billable hours to enjoying a few additional minutes with family in the morning.
The Practical Lawyer
CLICK HERE to read the full article, which was originally published in ALI CLE’s The Practical Lawyer.