Technologists Feeling Anxious About Heading Back to the Office

For the past few months, as the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has slowly risen, businesses everywhere have planned how and when to reintroduce technologists to the office. Many of these companies have spent considerable time and resources on redesigning office spaces, anxious to make employees feel safe.

Despite those efforts, though, a new survey from Blind (which anonymously surveys technologists about a range of issues) makes it clear that many technologists remain anxious about heading back to the office. Overall, some 65 percent of 4,272 respondents said that the prospect of commuting back to their old desks filled them with anxiety, while 35 percent said it didn’t. Here’s a company-by-company breakdown:

What’s behind this anxiety? Some 87 percent of technologists who described themselves as anxious said they were either moderately or very concerned about the health risks associated with going back to the office; another 78 percent indicated they were either moderately or very concerned about having to manage the logistics of home care (such as childcare) once they headed back in.

Roughly as many (80 percent) of those anxious souls said they were either moderately or very concerned about interacting with their co-workers in the office, which is understandable after a year in which everyone has been reduced to faces in little Zoom or Teams windows. 

Although remote work came with its own issues—including the ever-present risk of burnout—it’s clear from Blind’s survey that managers and team leaders will face a new set of challenges when trying to bring technologists back into the office. As with remote work, the key to this reintegration is communication: If a manager can clearly convey the office’s changes, including any new safety protocols, it could go a long way toward curing their team members’ anxieties.

It’s also up to managers to encourage positive interaction between team members who haven’t seen one another in quite some time, and who may need more than a few “icebreaker” exercises to refamiliarize themselves with sitting next to coworkers during the day. For development and engineering teams, the daily standup is a good opportunity to get everyone comfortable; for others, though, it might come down to a manager scheduling get-togethers and more informal meetings.