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After Getting Used to Working From Home, Employees Resist Return to the Office

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“I have an employee who won’t be coming back to the office for the next month because his dog has gotten so used to his working at home. He has to set up a gradual-separation plan,” said L., a manager at an Israeli startup, describing her efforts to get her staff to resume working at the office. “I’m willing to bet that he’s going to quit within three months, tops,” she added.

The employee in question served in an elite army tech unit and lives in central Tel Aviv, which makes him a desirable employee for high-tech companies. L. said she is sure that the employee in question is already getting ready to change jobs.

“It’s a pity that Karl Marx can’t see how the world we live in has been revolutionized. Companies are scared of their employees – I’m very curious to see what will happen. It’s just like it is with workers on unpaid leave, just a little less obvious – people have gotten used to not working,” L. says about employees who have spent the better part of the coronavirus year working from home.

Many of them have grown quite comfortable with remote work. If they were reluctant at the outset of the pandemic a year ago, by now they have come to appreciate the flexibility it affords. If they are willing to return to the office, they don’t want to do it full time.

Employers have other ideas in mind. In the United States, Google is accelerating its plans to bring employees back into the office and informed staff that starting September 1 anyone who wants to spend more than 14 days a year working remotely must get special permission.

The man with the dog isn’t the only staffer L. has to deal with now that the company is calling workers back to the office. “I have an employee that used to commute five days a week. Now, she’s threatening to quit because we’re asking her to work just two days a week in the office,” L. said.

“It’s crazy. We’ve gotten to the point that workers aren’t willing to fight traffic to come to work. I just hope people will calm down a little.”

A survey by CoFaceBDI for TheMarker found that among Israeli human resources managers, 45% say they intend employees to come back to the workplace full-time. Another 23% say they will allow staff to work two or three days a week at home and another 10% one day. The rest say they plan to introduce flexible policies or haven’t yet decided.

Tehila Yanai, co-CEO of CofaceBDI, laughed when she recalled that in previous surveys the company found that managers regarded themselves as generous when they allowed workers to work one day a week at home. Surveys in years past had shown that almost no companies allowed remote work,

“But now, because of the coronavirus, it’s become almost commonplace. Companies are seeing the benefit, such as being able to save money on office rental,” she said.

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