By Natalie Brooks Wilson, LCSW-R, PhD(c)
As the gates clang and the doors and windows creak open to welcome back the workforce, human service organizations face a multitude of decisions with regards to transitioning back to in-office work. Recognizing that much of the workforce, including early childhood center teams, residential program staff, nurses, and other important essential workers may have never stopped their in-person work during the global COVID-19 pandemic, numerous human service workers have been operating primarily in the virtual world.
Balancing the CDC safety requirements with the needs of clients and the physical/emotional comfort levels of staff members will be difficult. It will be helpful to consider a variety of factors that can impact the work and how agencies, in the City and across the state, will be able to reach and serve clients. Some of these considerations include whether clients and/or staff are experiencing vaccine hesitancy, whether there is sufficient office space and ventilation to maintain safety, whether returning staff members have adequate childcare in-place, whether creating a hybrid model of remote/in-person work makes sense for some, and whether those who have been working in-person all along have fair compensation and alternative perks available to them.
Many organizations throughout the state have created race equity statements in the wake of recent high profile racial injustices and the recognition of health disparities. Acknowledging that the existing holders of power will be making decisions as the workforce transitions back to the office is also an important factor to consider. While many organizations simultaneously have committed to being more equitable in their policies, procedures, and practices, this unprecedented moment offers vital opportunities for human service organizations to make critical decisions through the lenses of social equity and justice.