Your return to the office might come with no desk, toilet paper, or refrigerator to stash your lunch.
The supply-chain disruptions and chip shortages that have retailers fearing empty shelves for Christmas are complicating employers’ plans for a smooth reopening of offices, according to a report this week from consultancy Korn Ferry.
Office managers are saying that orders for breakroom refrigerators they need in January may not be fulfilled until next summer, said Elise Freedman, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry who is advising companies on their return-to-work strategies. New desks are also months behind schedule, she said, though that’s a smaller issue as offices are slow to fill to capacity.
With workers already reluctant to go back to the five-day office routine — a third of professionals responding to a Korn Ferry survey in August said they’re never returning full-time — each hiccup makes it harder for the employer to make reliable plans. Companies need to embrace the uncertainty and try to make the best of it, Freedman said in an interview.
“Organizations are trying to do something fun, be transparent, use humor,” she said. Maybe it’s “clients putting up a poster that shows someone sitting at a card table with a cooler next to them and it says, ‘We know this is not ideal. We are working to make it better.’”
The issue is more serious for employees who need access to refrigeration for vital needs, such as nursing mothers or workers with medications requiring cooling. The key for employers will be ongoing flexibility to allow for some people to continue remote work, Freedman said.
The breakroom might not be the biggest hardship. Early indications are that the same sorts of toilet paper shortages that hit homes in 2020 could also plague office restrooms once workers return in volume, Freedman said. So maybe pack a roll of TP in your work go-bag.