back to work

According to several sources including the Wall Street Journal, most organizations are looking at late summer or even September for a full return to the workplace. Between vaccination roll-outs, local ordinances and internal logistics it will take that long to implement their plans. That means a mass of people who work from home returning to their desks, at least part of the time. This will coincide with kids going back to school. Maybe we need a “back-to-work” sale, just like they advertise for school supplies.

The most obvious thing many need to purchase would be pants. On the one hand, most of us shouldn’t need to buy them, because they haven’t been worn since March. Of course, while they are fresh and unused, there’s the painful reality that no matter what kind of shape your slacks are in, they probably won’t fit. Pants are at the top of the list.

What else will companies and workers need to stock up on?

Webcams and cordless headsets for people in the office. 

Before the pandemic, many companies knew that the folks who worked remotely would need webcams, but the people in the office can already see each other, right? As more meetings will now be completely virtual, webcams (along with headsets/microphones to diminish background noise) will be standard for everyone.

Antimicrobial keyboards and other supplies.

If there’s good news among all the COVID doom and gloom it’s that the precautions we’re taking against the big bad germs are also keeping us safe from the regular cold and flu. Who knew that washing your hands, keeping distant and sanitizing would kill all those bugs? Actually, everyone did. We just didn’t do it. Upon returning, people and organizations will be much more conscious of health and safety.

Portable/collapsible/lightweight screens for cubicles.

For a lot of people, working in their own private space at home was a luxury after years in Cubeland. Even if they have kids at home, their toddler might be less intrusive and annoying than Bob in Accounting. Not everyone is going to want to be in ear-and-eye shot of each other.

Those little coffee pod-things.

Many of us endured captivity by indulging in our own favorite coffees and teas. When we go back, it’s unlikely we’ll be thrilled with the good old industrial-strength swill we drank before. And for many of us, re-entry will require medicinal-strength doses of caffeine.

Audio books and streaming service subscriptions.

Commutes are back, baby. People will now be stuck in traffic and able to spend time listening to information and music for uninterrupted periods of time.

Pens, paper, USB drives and all that stuff that mysteriously followed us home.

I’m going to guess I’m not the only one that raided the office supply closet before getting locked in.

Maybe this could be an annual thing. After summer vacations (because once this is over you KNOW people are going to take trips and holidays) we could have back to work sales, just as we do with school supplies.

Seriously, the return to work will require planning. Now’s the time to start thinking about it.

And trying on your pants. Definitely try on your pants.

The same principles that make great remote teammates make good office teammates. Let one positive from the pandemic be that you transitioned from merely being a member of the team to becoming a great teammate.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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