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LETTERS

We’re facing a halting return to the workplace

The 100 Federal Street entrance on Congress Street in Boston's Financial District on July 29, 2020.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

For many, the question is: Should in-person work even be a thing?

In “Activity down, anxiety up in workplace” (Page A1, Dec. 20), Anissa Gardizy examines the disconnect between delayed returns to in-office work and public health researchers’ view that in-office work can be done safely. While questions of safety are essential for industries in which in-person work is necessary, focusing on in-office risk obfuscates the larger, and perhaps more important, question for many knowledge workers: Should offices even be aiming to return to in-person work?

An October survey by Slack’s Future Forum found that only 17 percent of non-executive employees desire a full-time return to the office. And a May survey by EY found that a striking 54 percent of employees would “consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.” The groups most eager for flexibility are those who historically have been underrepresented in knowledge work: The Future Forum survey found that “people of color, women, and working moms” value flexibility more highly than do other demographics.

As executives debate the safety of returning to the office, it is important to also question whether returning is the right goal.

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Katie Ana Baca

Brookline


Unpaid caregivers continue to be pulled in different directions

Anissa Gardizy’s article on questions surrounding the return to the workplace encompassed a smart analysis of factors, including the looming threat of the Omicron variant. However, there is another crisis brewing for unpaid caregivers who are struggling with the transition around office life due to the new realities imposed by the pandemic.

According to our data, almost half of the population performs a caregiver function — a parent or guardian to someone under age 18 or the primary care provider for someone over 18, such as an aging parent or family member. The challenges of caregiving, such as working from home while doubling as a teacher to help your kids with online learning, have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Now caregivers are being asked to clear new hurdles, such as COVID-19 protocols in schools and truncated hours for day care. Caregivers are rightly concerned about how to return to work yet still provide coverage for a child who gets sent home from school due to COVID-19 exposure.

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Together, employers and government can play a critical role to address and relieve some of these challenges to help caregivers better manage the new reality and perhaps feel more confident about a return to the workplace.

Alexandra Drane

Beverly

The writer is the CEO and cofounder of Archangels, a women-owned start-up dedicated to supporting unpaid caregivers.