Fear and Loathing in the Workplace

How much do you miss the water cooler? Enough to ever visit it again?

With so much talk (heated and otherwise) regarding “reopening the economy” the primary concern for many of us is: What will this actually look like at my workplace — and most importantly, how safe will I be?

According to a recent survey, workers of all ages, from boomers to Gen Z, are wary about returning to shared workspaces, with more than 65 percent in every age group reporting that they're uncomfortable in doing so.

I’m not surprised by that number. In fact, I’m surprised that it’s not much higher. Who are these folks who aren’t concerned?

Because when it comes to our many, many, many questions regarding our collective return to work, the short version is: no one knows all answers yet.

Meanwhile, the longer version acknowledges that our employers are asking many questions as well, such as:

  • 👯‍♀️ How do we social distance office space?

  • 🤧 How do we test employees daily?

  • 🗣 How do we hold meetings?

  • 🕦 How do we structure workdays?

  • 🧽 How do we keep offices clean?

  • 🤷🏽 When will we make all of this happen?

However, one of the most important questions employers should be asking right now is: Who actually needs to be in the office?

Flip the script

“Employers have to think hard about how much work needs to be on-site,” argues Rachael Ellison, organizational development expert, management consultant and co-host with me of The Breadwinners, our podcast about women, working, money and family. “They've really got to think about why someone needs to come in. And once they do need to come in, who else is coming in to support them?” (Listen to our conversation here or read it here.)

As someone who has been writing about/arguing for flexible work policies as a way to improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, improve morale and everything in between, the idea that companies now have to flip their thinking to consider who can’t work from home is mind-blowing to me.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Take off and landing

In the meantime, I’m also thinking a lot about the stress that will be placed on us as individual employees to say whether or not we are comfortable with returning to our offices as well as with our commutes. As someone who lives in the apex (a.k.a., New York City), I am not ready to return to the subway anytime soon. But I know that day will come.

When it does, our workplaces will need more than just a series of new policies to stay healthy and safe. We’ll need workplace benefits — and workplace cultures — that support, encourage and commit to our health and safety as well: whether it’s how we gather, how we work, or how we choose to protect ourselves.

As Rachael says, “As industries and as individuals, we are flying the plane and building it at the same time. We're just trying to figure out what the rules are.”


For a Pause

  1. Clean it up. Speaking of clean work surfaces, how are you doing for Clorox wipes? Is it time to try making your own? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide we’re going to try. Let us know if it works for you.

  2. Freshen up. Want to freshen up your mask game? This simple tutorial from Brooklyn General Store shows you how. I used this short video to make a bunch of masks for my family near and far.

  3. Thai one on. Element Natural Healing has been my favorite spot for massage and acupuncture for more than a decade. While closed, they are still serving their devoted clientele by producing short how-to massage videos, which I’ve been trying out on everyone in my house. So far, the hands-down favorite has been this Thai massage approach.

  4. Heat it up. Not sure who recommended this cookbook to me but thank you: Milk Street: Tuesday Nights More than 200 Simple Weeknight Suppers that Deliver Bold Flavor, Fast by Christopher Kimball has become our go-to first recipe stop any night (because who can tell what day it is anymore).

What Are You Doing Tonight?

Our friends at Elektra Health are hosting a free two-week online program for women looking to “get smart + live well” in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Starting tonight at 7:30 p.m., Smash the Taboo Workshop will feature physicians talking about what’s going on with your body, what's true (and what's not true) about hormone replacement therapy, and how you can take control of your hormonal health today.

Interested? Learn more and sign up here. ⬅️

One More Thing…

Need a mask with a message? This one can be yours, with 35 percent of profits going to support food banks.

Until next week, stay well. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

See you next time!


Don’t worry about a thing.
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright.

Three Little Birds, Bob Marley & The Wailers

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