Why you wish to be again in workplace in some unspecified time in the future: Behavioral knowledgeable
A recent surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Delta variant is rekindling the return to work debate across the country. With Apple and Alphabet postponing their return plans to October, companies and employees are re-evaluating whether to return to the office.
Persistent safety and health concerns, even before the rise in new Covid cases, suggest it will be some time before employees are comfortable returning to an office. But at some point, says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University, if that’s certain, workers will want to be back in the office more than they think.
“When people are stressed, anxious, and concerned, this is generally not the time to expect people to think and understand their own motives as best they can,” said Ariely.
After a year of uncertainty, the human behavior expert says this may not be the best time for workers to make final decisions about how to return to the office, but eventually when the time is right to make decisions about how to return Hitting the workplace can surprise yourself.
Work personally again on a trial basis
Although plans have been pushed back, many companies like Apple and Google are developing hybrid work models that require employees to return to a shortened work week instead of a full five-day week, although the flexibility of each company’s hybrid model varies.
Whatever the model, Ariely recommends companies offer a trial period to return to the office first, rather than forcing employees to follow a permanent return plan. He says companies should offer their employees shortened working weeks for a certain period of time, after which time employees can choose to work more days per week.
Ariely believes this will lead more workers to choose personal work.
“Going back is just a difficult step,” said Ariely. “But if we get people to do it for even a month or two, I think people will be very different by the end of that time.”
People enter Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York, United States on Monday, June 14, 2021.
Michael Nagel | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Many people are scared of going back to work while others have just become familiar with working remotely, and Ariely says people need to try new things before making permanent decisions. He compared a rehabilitation rehabilitation plan to buying a new mattress.
“When you go to a mattress store, you can imagine what the mattress feels like and lie on it for five minutes,” said Ariely. “But to really experience it, you have to use the mattress for a month to understand what it is like.”
Don’t underestimate the social interaction
While remote working is beneficial for many workers, lowering childcare costs and increasing the opportunities available, in-person work can be helpful for face-to-face interaction and collaboration across the company, which can be hampered in a virtual world, a point which many CEOs highlighted in their statement on why they want workers to return.
“People don’t understand how much they miss other people,” said Ariely. “I think we forget the joys we get from other people.”
In times of lockdown, quarantine, and separation, people have got used to isolation and, in many cases, have forgotten the value of social interaction. Behavioral research, including a strange finding about humans that Ariely quoted, shows how social we are as animals: humans subconsciously smell their hands after shaking hands with another person.
This simple involuntary action reveals the depth and complexity of social interaction, Ariely said. People also appreciate looking someone in the eyes, seeing their smile, hearing their words, and smelling their scent as a means of interaction, he said.
“We’re social animals and now that has been taken from us and we’ve kind of forgotten what it is,” said Ariely. “But I think when people go back to work we will remember that.”
Take control where you can
As experts continue to debate why people don’t return to work, Ariely recommends companies come up with clear return to work options and employees need to regain control where they can.
“We live in an environment where many of our freedoms have been taken away,” said Ariely. “There are things that we suddenly can’t do. We don’t have the same control over our lives.”
When control is lost, Ariely says, mental wellbeing can be taken away. When Ariely was a burn patient in the hospital years ago, he said he had a button he could press six times a day to get pain medication, and that control was important to his well-being.
Similarly, employees should regain control in ways that they can. In small steps, people can gain control by exercising, creating a new routine, or opening a savings account, says Ariely.
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