While vaccinations are underway and offices are preparing to reopen their doors, management nationwide faces a great challenge: how to safely reintroduce office workers, softened by their months working from home captivity, back into their native corporate environments. Whether it’s the tundra of fluorescent-lit cubicles or the vast savannas of an open floor plan, the captive office worker will be reluctant and possibly hostile at the prospect of having to leave her apartment and wear tight-waisted jeans that never really fit, even pre-pandemic, again. To ease the transition and prepare the captive office work for her reintegration into the workplace, try incentivizing her return with a reward. (No, don’t worry, not a monetary one — the promise of free donuts on the first day back should suffice).
Unaccustomed to traversing great distances of traffic-stopped terrain (and for why? To stare at work screen?), the captive office worker may not be able to complete the migration pattern of the morning commute. In fact, three red lights in, it is not uncommon for the office worker to become overwhelmed, pull into the nearest Starbucks parking lot, and have a total fucking meltdown. It is best to just allow these outbursts and not ask too many questions when they show up fifteen minutes late with an iced vanilla latte in hand.
The harsh LED lighting of the corporate environment may frighten the office worker. If she attempts to hide under the nearest standing desk, try coaxing her out with a piece of cheese or an extra vacation day (unpaid). To remind the office worker that it is safe, it is important to introduce small comforts reminiscent of the captive environment. Surround her with an unloaded dishwasher, piles of clothes on the floor sorted by “dirty” and “clean-ish,” and lots of plants that are pretty much dead despite best efforts.
The captive office worker is unaccustomed to the rich diet of endless free office snacks and stale breakroom cookies, having subsisted for over a year on Postmates and Trader Joe’s frozen meals. You may even notice the worker stockpiling hordes of Kind Bars and Spindrift, as if preparing for winter scarcity. Do not be alarmed. Give it two weeks, and they’ll be back to complaining about how their friend who works at a tech company gets all her meals catered, before reluctantly pulling out the banana they brought from home. When lunch rolls around, you may also have to reintroduce the office worker to its natural prey: the $15 salad bowl.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of reintroducing office workers into the wild is socialization with other office workers. Although workers may have had limited contact with each other via video, text, and exchanging memes, the laws of in-person communication will be entirely unfamiliar. It is important to introduce the workers slowly to each other, and not leave them alone together for more than ten minutes at a time, at which point they will have run out of things to say to each other and become distressed and try to burn the whole place to the ground. To ease things along, try manufacturing office gossip: Did you hear Claude from Sales is in the Witness Protection Program for informing on the Swiss Mafia? And Ava from Upper Management? Massive tree nut allergy. That should keep the conversations rolling for a few weeks.
Unaccustomed to predators in its sheltered environment, the captive office worker has not developed the defense mechanisms necessary to survive in the wild. Whereas wild office workers have developed such protections as thick skin, sarcasm, and the ability to shoot poisonous saliva up to 25 feet to withstand office politics, a single passive-aggressive comment could prove fatal to the captive office worker. While defense mechanisms will develop over time, you must be sure to constantly shower praise on the office worker for the banalest of accomplishments, and NEVER send an email without a minimum of two exclamation points.
Perhaps, given all the difficulties listed above, the safest course of action is just to let the captive office worker stay home.