Can I Come to Work in my Sweatpants, Please?
Not another guide on returning to work safely.
Ah, the sound of traffic on the M1 highway. It’s music to my lonely ears as millions of South Africans start taking their morning routes to work. Welcome back to the ⅚ South Africans who still have their jobs.
Anyway, as you can imagine, there is a lot of stale, very business-like advice out there about how to return to work seamlessly and promote mental health among employees.
This is not one of those guides.
However, I will be using the very same paragraph subtitles from one such article. But I will be serving you caveman-leaving-cave-into-society realness. Like the way I attacked my newly-ordered bottle of Jamesons roughly 20 minutes ago, let’s dive in:
Make the Workplace Safe
Yes, we must all fog the office and implement our hygiene protocols. Yes, we must install sneeze screens at every desk and yes, we must keep the pause and lunch areas free from humans. But what safety measures are you putting in place for other things? Like tie-wearing or pin skirts that don’t fit anymore and will cause some major IBS problems.
Casual Fridays will need some reimagining. For the past few months, my work attire has been sweatpants and a hoodie. On Fridays, I went full savage and wore my pyjamas all day and told colleagues that I would be in “focused zone time” all through Fridays so no meetings. So if the workplace really wants to make me feel safe returning to the blinding fluorescents and putting on shoes, can I wear my sweatpants to work?
Encourage Good Hygiene
This is important and necessary. On a personal level, I may have forgotten what hygienic etiquette is at a keyboard. Working from home has meant that my keyboard as doubled up as a coaster, a crisps bowl and tablecloth. It’s amazing how disgusting you can become when no one is there to see you. Someone will have to teach us all how to be humans that can function politely in society again. I think it will be important to have signs throughout the office promoting a safe distance from one another but also reminders that tinned tuna and sardines are still forbidden.
Update Policies and Procedures
It’s going to be very interesting to see how companies implement a safe bathroom procedure. “We’re sorry mam, your stomach bug will have to wait. Only two people allowed in the loos at once please.” Honestly, I’d rather not return to work. Receptionists are already clinical and [sometimes] snooty. Imagine you give them the power to enforce sanitizer regulations too. So high on power, will they ever be the same again.
While zoom meetings have been a real blast and an inspiration for comedy on its own, I’m looking forward to certain meeting procedures. For example, did anyone else find it easier to suggest a bathroom break during boardroom meetings? It has been incredibly awkward interrupting people to tell them you need to pop off to the bathroom while on a call. Even more awkward for some when they’ve taken their laptops with them and forgotten to turn off their cameras.
Support Employees’ Mental Health
COVID-19 might create a population of agoraphobics and introverts. I went into Lockdown a highly sociable extrovert. However, now I’m 70% hermit, 20% recluse and 10% lone wolf. My online persona doesn’t stop talking about how I can’t wait to be in bars and get back to my work colleagues and friends.
But honestly, reader, between you and me, my online persona is a liar. I’ll have to make small talk in the corridors. Am I capable of talking about anything else but COVID? Will there be room for any other conversation? “How are the kids, Carol? Oh wow, you gave them away. Haha, this covid thing riiight? It’s really changed the world hasn’t it, Carol”.
Easing us back into the office will be the best action. We shouldn’t be allowed to leave our cubicles for weeks so that we can acclimate to being surrounded by people. This will give us the time we need to get our compulsive sniffing under control. Personally, I’ll need some time to pull back on the talking to myself. I’m going to scare a lot of people if you release me into the world too quickly.
Working from home is not a productivity annihilator. Cleaning that home and looking after kids is the assassin. Remove these responsibilities and you’ll have yourself a ready-to-go workforce running into your arms (metaphorically of course. Running into someone’s arms is illegal right now) away from their families and chores. No employer will have to actively restore productivity in their workforce.
From all of us here at Payflex, we wish those returning to work in your sweatpants a successful first month. Continue to stay safe and be wary of the virus but as you can see it might be time to start injecting some humour into the most-overused-term-ever, “new-normal”.