Companies are letting employees take the lead on workplace reopenings. Here’s how it’s gone so far.









  • eerie – strange and frightening
  • honoree – a person who receives an honor, award, or special recognition
  • equitable – treating everyone fairly and in the same way
  • to take a hard line – to have or assume a very strict, inflexible view or position
  • resentment – a feeling of indignant displeasure at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury
  • ample – plentiful
  • goofy – rather silly or ridiculous
  • to beef up – to make something stronger or more effective, esp. by adding more support

Fill in the blanks:

ACTIVE vs. PASSIVE: Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verb in brackets. Go to www.inc.com to check your answers.

Don’t expect that all employees will be eager to return to the office, even if they (1) …………. (vaccinate). Instead, get employee buy-in by validating individuals’ concerns and asking what will make them feel safe. At Outdoor Living Brands, a group of franchise brands in Glen Allen, Virginia, that includes two-time Inc. 5000 honoree Conserva Irrigation Franchising, a “soft reopening” (2) ………… (begin) last summer, and any employee who didn’t feel comfortable returning (3) …….. (tell) to continue working from home. “We didn’t take a hard line with anything,” says chairman and CEO Chris Grandpre.

If you do decide to set a date for employees to return to the office, avoid making it a requirement, says Kelly DuFord Williams, founder and managing partner of Slate Law Group, a San Diego-based firm that focuses on business and employment law. Besides potentially alienating employees, strict rules can open you up to lawsuits if workers (4) …………. (perceive) them as discriminatory, so she (5) …………… (recommend) keeping remote work as an option if you can. If you need to bring people back, make sure they know why–and whom they can contact if they have concerns. Work with your HR department or attorney to stay current on state and federal laws, and when in doubt, follow the strictest regulations regarding workplace safety, she says. Once you have a policy, make sure it’s in writing, along with any exceptions, and (6) ………. (apply) equitably to your entire staff to avoid discrimination claims.

Background-check company Mind Your Business, a three-time Inc. 5000 honoree, (7) ……….. (institute=introduce) robust safety protocols–including symptom checks, plastic shields, social distancing and mask-wearing requirements, and enhanced cleaning routines and ventilation–in order to reopen its 39-person headquarters in Hendersonville, North Carolina, in October 2020. Still, only one of the company’s five departments works in the office per day, and employees with documented health concerns (8) ……….. (permit) to work from home, says founder and CEO Karen Caruso. Other companies are extending cubicle walls with plexiglass, spacing out desks, or having in-office workers join meetings virtually instead of gathering in conference rooms.

One thing most companies aren’t doing when they (9) ………. (reopen) is celebrating. Many have yet to reschedule the events that they canceled last year. Caruso’s company postponed its 25th anniversary celebration, which (10) ……… (mean) to take place in June. And even when it’s technically safe to do so, both O’Neill and DuFord Williams advise against requiring employees to show up to company parties–or even large meetings–while they (11) ……….. (get)  reacclimated to office life.

ANSWERS: are vaccinated; 2. began; 3. was told; 4. perceive; 5. recommends; 6. is applied; 7. instituted; 8. are permitted; 9. reopen; 10. was meant; 11. are (still) getting

Practice Makes Perfect

Fill in the gaps with the words in bold below. You can check your answers here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/01/has-the-pandemic-transformed-the-office-forever

mandatory                 lose out                      isolation                     hybrid             kit      

cloud             proximity                   gear                the bulk of                 favoring

Has the Pandemic Transformed the Office Forever?

Companies are figuring out how to balance what appears to be a lasting shift toward remote work with the value of the physical workplace.

Studio O+A assembled its own COVID tool (1) …………….. for office safety. Then the staff were asked to develop a new set of COVID-related typologies—activity-based spaces that might become standard features of a post-pandemic workplace. The Donning/Doffing Room was the top typology that emerged (…). This space, some version of which many other workplace firms were also proposing, would include a temperature-check station, an (2) ………… room for people who tested hot, a place for (3) …………. hand washing, and lockers to store outside (4) ………… and shoes, in addition to personal items. (…)

R/GA’s remaining floor at 450 West Thirty-third Street would become a (5) ………. workspace, where some employees would be physically present some of the time, working at reservable desks, but on any given day (6) ……….. employees would be remote. Sean Lyons, the C.E.O., envisaged people being in the office for three days a week and home for two, on average. “In the Singapore office, they want people in the office Monday and Friday, so they can begin and end the week together,” he said.

(…) One of the pain points that the final round of R/GA surveys turned up was the fear that remote workers will (7) …………. on opportunities that in-person workers get by virtue of (8) ……….. . Fifty-seven per cent of respondents thought that the stigma of working remotely would linger after the pandemic. “When working from home people felt others saw them as unproductive, difficult to reach, and taking an unofficial day off,” a summary found. “There is a lot of concern that when some return to the office, expectations and processes will shift back to (9) ………. those who are physically present.” (…)

Anyways, whether walled, open, or (10) ……… -based, an office is about the people who work there. Without the people, the office is an empty shell.


ANSWERS: 1.kit; 2. isolation; 3. mandatory; 4. gear; 5. hybrid; 6. the bulk of; 7. lose out; 8. proximity; 9. favoring; 10. cloud




  • How do you feel about returning to the office?
  • Do you miss your colleagues?
  • Do you like your office?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change about your office/workstation?
  • Do you think the post-pandemic workplace will look much different than before?
  • Do you expect “flex” work schedule or any other changes?


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