It’s been two years since I’ve been back at the office. For as long as I can remember I was always an advocate for the “work from home” model. I have my personal reasons for it: I enjoy working along with my partner our his apartment. I have a comfortable work-from-home set up with a proper chair that gives me no back pain. I have two dogs, one of which is still a puppy — instead of having meaningless chats in the office, I go for short breaks out with my doggies.
Sometimes I suffer from anxiety (an anxiety attack could literally hit me out of nowhere — so obviously I prefer to stay at home).
But i also has solid professional reasons why I believe that working from home is a benefit to the business and health. I presented my reasonings to the higher management (along with like-minded colleagues):
• I invest more time working than commuting.
• My performance increased when working from home and I’ve managed to exceed my targets.
• My mental health has improved.
• I have taken fewer sick days than in any previous years.
The higher management listened to the employees but choose not to implement work from home or hybrid model. Their argument was that employees are missing on socializing in the office and therefore the team is not as efficient. Ironically, the team’s performance was better than ever so obviously this was a lie.
The real reason is that someone “from above” just wished to control and micromanage the teams.
After coming back to the office I did what I was encouraged to do — started socializing. I noticed that the team members are nipping out nearly every other hour, having a cigarette or just going to grab a quick snack. It was obvious that the team is unhappy to be back on the company’s terms.
So they started talking. When asking the usual questions such as, “How are you?” the responses were unexpectedly honest.
“Unhappy. I wish I could work from home. This is literally killing me. I am so stressed and I feel like I do less work done…”
Coffee and lunch breaks started revolving only about one topic — unhappiness at work. This lasted for weeks until one of my colleagues got so fed up and approached the CEO directly and told him that his employees are unhappy. What followed was next was a Sherlock Holmes investigation.
The CEO appointed a team lead to find out who has started this horrible rumor around the office that his employees are unhappy. Yes, you heard me right. The company spent resources on the interrogation of the employees.
The team lead scheduled one on one calls with every member of the team to find out where did this hostility come from. Even though every single member of the team voiced that this is not a rumour, and that people are voicing their feelings, the CEO demanded to find someone to blame for “poisoning” the office spirit.
I passionately told the team lead that it’s me voicing my opinions about the toxic work “from the office” policy in the midst of the pandemic.
People fear catching viruses — being vaccinated doesn’t make them invincible. People don’t want to go back to the old normal when nothing is “normal” currently. The company is struggling to find new talents just because they don’t want to provide their employees with what they deserve — trust and respect.It puzzles me especially when the team’s performance skyrocketed whilst we all worked from home. There is no logical reasoning behind this policy.
The team leader decided that I was the one who started this “propaganda” and “gossip” at work. So, he called me out and I received a warning. “One more strike and you are out!”
I was already on my way home, anyway. But what the company didn’t expect was that many others were about to follow me.
But not everyone has the balls and the privilege to voice their opinions and just walk out. Not everyone believes in themselves that they will be able to find another job easily. And others get too comfortable and used to abusive corporations just like they get hooked up to toxic worksites. They fear suffering significant costs by challenging their managers.
Companies would benefit if employees would speak up. When employees voice their opinions, suggestions, or concerns, organizations become better at handling threats and opportunities. Unfortunately, employees remain silent with their opinions. They are afraid to share what they are really thinking and feeling. They fear the consequences of speaking the truth.
For employees to speak up the company should build a foundation of trust. The managers should be transparent and authentical— they should implement the employee’s suggestions into the company. But most importantly they should create a feeling of safety for the employees. If companies implement a witch hunt just because employees discussed issues in the workplace then obviously those who fear losing their jobs will remain silent forever.
If you aren’t allowed to honestly say “I am not okay” to your colleague/ manager then the best thing you should do is leave. Don’t wait for the company to change — you change instead. Your opinions matter, don’t let anyone silence you.