Page 37 - BusinessWest March 17, 2021
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want to get all their employees back in the office as soon as they can.”
She noted the importance of age- old rituals of the workplace, walking in the door at the start of the day and ask- ing co-workers about their weekend,
or their family, or whatever might be going on, whether it’s related to their jobs or not.
“When people are removed from
an environment that really is a team, where you’ve gotten to know each oth- er’s family situations and personal life, you really do lose that with a remote connection,” she said. “When people come into an office meeting, they sit down and chit-chat with the person next to them a little. It’s hard to recreate that on a Zoom meeting; you lose some of that personal connection.”
Boivin agreed. “The productivity piece seems to be working out pretty solidly now,” he told BusinessWest. “At the same time, the collaborative, in- person aspect is missed.”
One big topic of conversation is
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in this case supporting the argument that Whole Foods was selectively enforcing the dress-code policy against black employees.
Given the current political climate, employers may be left wondering whether Whole Foods and other retail employers are making the right move by enforcing dress-code policies in a way that restricts political and socially progressive speech. Certainly, there are arguments to be made that these poli-
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   new-employee onboarding, he said, noting that orientation is conducted in person, and video communications are a regular reality, but he wonders if that’s enough to keep them engaged.
“I have a new graphic designer in the Marketing department who started at the end of August. She’s been [physi- cally] at UMassFive for just a day or two. How do you incorporate new personnel into the culture outside of the physical environment? That’s a big challenge.”
Also challenging is the way bound- aries between work and personal life have blurred, whether it’s juggling job responsibilities with helping kids with remote schoolwork, or simply working too many hours.
“Productivity is up,” Wise said, “but some of it is putting in longer hours
— rolling out of bed, having breakfast, and getting right to work instead of commuting, and then at 5, instead of getting in the car and driving home to fix dinner, they keep working. Some- thing we’ve heard is that people need to build in some transition time so they
cies are geared toward improving cus- tomer relations and eliminating politi- cally charged disputes between work- ers and customers. Last summer, much news was made about a customer in Target berating an employee wear-
ing BLM attire with questions about whether “all lives matter.”
The same can be said for employee relations. It is not hard to envision heated disputes around the water cool- er over clothing that bears political or social-justice messages.
That said, this case has generated
don’t start working at 7 and quit at 6.” Whatever the reason, many employ-
ees will be more than happy to return to the pre-pandemic work world.
“Now that we’re going on a year,
a lot of people are saying, ‘I thought
I wanted this, but I really want to be back in the office — maybe not five days a week for 52 weeks a year, but maybe in the office three days and at home two days,” she added. “A lot of employees are saying, ‘this isn’t what I thought it was going to be — I need to be back around people; I need to have boundaries by being back in the office.’”
Each industry is different, too, Wise added. For example, companies where creativity is crucial, like marketing firms, probably find it easier to brain- storm when people are together in one physical space, able to immediately bounce ideas off one another.
“I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all answer that’s going to fit every organi- zation,” she said. “My guess would be a lot of manufacturers, since they have individuals on the floor who have to
a lot of publicity for Whole Foods. And they are not alone. Starbucks had a similar dress-code policy that prohibited employees from wearing BLM attire and other clothing bearing political and social messaging. After protests and public outcry, Starbucks reversed its position and began allow- ing employee to wear T-shirts or pins supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Businesses need to pay careful attention to this issue. While the adop- tion of strict, ‘neutral’ dress codes
be at work, are going to be less likely
to have their office staff remain totally remote because that creates an us-and- them mentality. But some other organi- zations will allow many people to stay totally remote, or there may be that hybrid of people working in the office and then from home.”
Galat agreed, adding that that he’s heard of some companies staying fully remote, but most seem to be moving toward a hybrid approach — which speaks to one way COVID-19 may have permanently altered the American workplace.
“We’ve learned a lot through the year,” he said. “We miss that com- ponent of teamwork and collabora- tion; not having that makes it more challenging. But I think the hybrid approach might be the approach we look at going forward. We’ll evaluate and fine-tune it as we go.” u
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]
appears legal, there could be unintend- ed consequences, including irreversible harm to employee morale and negative public-relations nightmares. u
Tim Murphy is an attorney with the Springfield-based firm Skoler Abbott & Presser, specializing in labor relations, union campaigns, collective bargaining and arbitration, employment litigation, and employment counseling; (413) 737- 4753.
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