“It was brutal — I had so many sleepless nights,” he said. “Was I doing the right thing or the wrong thing? It was a big internal battle.” Ultimately, he decided to begin urging workers to come back in June, while allowing people with extenuating circumstances like health problems or an ill relative stay home.
“We didn’t have to use undue pressure, but I didn’t want to be in a position to have people working from home for a year and a half,” Mr. Foreman said. “That wouldn’t be fair to the people working in the office. And I can’t manage the company through each employee’s individual fears and apprehensions.”
Steve Cantrell, director of creative services at Basic Fun, wasn’t ready to return. His daughter has Type 1 diabetes, and Mr. Cantrell and his wife were concerned he might catch the coronavirus from a colleague and expose his daughter to it. Mr. Cantrell was able to put off going back for five weeks.
“They bent for me, and I bent for them and eventually came back,” Mr. Cantrell said. “It was worse sitting home and thinking about it. If we’re wearing masks and not coming within five feet of each other, we’re safe. I didn’t want to come back, but it’s nice to get back to the routine and normalcy.”
A few employees were eager to come back and felt reassured by the steps the company took to protect them, like the barriers for cubicles and the rules mandating masks.
“If they hadn’t made it safe, I definitely would not have come back to the office,” said Karen Sullivan, sales coordinator at Basic Fun. “But I live in a small two-bedroom place, and it just wasn’t comfortable working from home. I was working off a card table.”
Like many workers, she missed face-to-face contact with colleagues, despite the risks. “I needed more of the office interaction,” Ms. Sullivan said. “Not everybody felt that way.”