'Needlessly unkind' | Fury as firm 'mocks' staff upon office return amid back-to-work anxiety rise

Fury as firm 'mocks' staff upon office return amid back-to-work anxiety rise

A company has attracted waves of backlash online after displaying ‘insensitive’ posters around its building to welcome back staff to the office, The Independent reports.

Employees returning to work at the office of Oxford Properties, a Toronto-based real estate investment firm, were greeted by several signs which appeared to “mock” some of the work-from-home perks they would now be missing out on.

One sign showed a pair of tracksuit bottoms, with the question: “Miss your sweatpants yet?”

Another poster, which displayed a sad-looking dog, had the caption: “Bet your dog’s missing you”, while another showed a woman smiling while at work, with the message: “Seriously, we missed you.”

As reported by the Independent, a Twitter post which shared images of the posters, alongside a critical caption, has generated more than 149,000 likes and more than 1,800 replies at the time of publication, with many commenters deeming the signs offensive.

Among the comments compiled by The Independent, one user said: “This is so weirdly and needlessly unkind.”

Another commented: “Who thought it was a good idea to remind people how sad they were making their dogs?” with another agreeing: “This is God awful. The dog one is beyond disgusting. Nice of them to acknowledge the office is a terrible place and folks hate it though”.

A spokesperson for the company issued an apology for any offence caused, admitting that it had “clearly missed the mark”.

In a statement provided to local media outlet blogTO, the firm said: "Unfortunately, in an attempt to be lighthearted the signage came off as uncaring, which was never our intention. The signage clearly missed the mark and was removed last week as a result.

"The campaign should have not made it into production and we sincerely apologize to any customers, colleagues and members of the public that were offended."

The firm is not alone in ushering more staff back into the office. A recent study conducted by IPSOS in conjunction with GoodShape, a wellbeing and productivity company, found that 66% of managers and HR professionals say remote working will be rolled back once the pandemic is over, with 57% saying the same for flexible working.

Return-to-work anxiety on the rise

Although the firm’s posters appear to be rooted in misguided humour, rather than intentional malice, data points to the stark reality that many employees are very worried about returning to the physical working environment.

In the UK specifically, now that COVID restrictions have been lifted, employers are increasingly expecting their staff to stop remote working. But not all workers are happy about it, with new research by mental health expert and hypnotherapist David Samson finding that 41% of workers are anxious about returning to the office.

The research found that this anxiety wasn’t limited to any particular age group either - 42% of respondents were aged 18-29, and equally, 42% of respondents were aged 30-44. Of those surveyed, 41% said that they felt that COVID restrictions had been lifted too early, and this was contributing to their anxiety about returning to the office.

74% of respondents said they found working from home a more relaxed experience than working in the office, with 67% saying they’d choose to continue working from home, should the opportunity arise. However, 41% also said that they’d be happy to return to the office.

“It's clear that working from home has been a positive experience for most people. It's allowed us to escape the distractions and stress of the traditional workplace and find a more relaxed way of working,” David Samson says. “Returning to the office may bring with it some anxiety, but for many people it will also represent an opportunity to get back into the swing of things and resume their normal work routine. We just need to make sure we're prepared for any potential bumps in the road.”

If you’re anxious about returning to the office, there are some things you can do to make the transition work more smoothly:

  • Acknowledge your anxiety. Don’t feel you have to pretend you’re not concerned. “It’s completely healthy to feel a bit of anxiety,” Ashley Stahl writes for Forbes. “Do you know what isn’t healthy? Ignoring it. “

  • Take one step at a time. The first few days back in the office are likely to feel overwhelming, especially if you’re getting used to early starts and long commutes again. Acknowledge your feelings. Be kind to yourself – and keep up your wellness practices, such as eating healthily and exercising.

  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to talk to your HR manager and get all the details of your company’s back-to-work plans. ““I suggest that those who have concerns share directly what their concerns are,” says Debra Kaplan, a US therapist, in an article for cnbc.com. If something is bothering you in particular, she suggests raising it with a supervisor and offering a solution. “Offer a suggestion so that a resolution potentially meets your needs,” she says.

  • Be prepared for separation anxiety. Yes, your dog or cat will miss you once you return to the office, but you are doing what you can to look after the pair of you. However, Mark Gerald, an American psychoanalyst, suggests trying to reframe your return in a positive way by focusing on what you’ll gain rather than lose. “Being part of a community, an organization, learning more about oneself and others from more intimate teamwork, are essential values of being part of the world,” he told cnbc.com



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