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This is the weekly Careers newsletter.

Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth and head to your closet to choose what to wear for work. As you mull over the options – one could be too casual, another too formal – you realize you’re already stressed before the workday has begun.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In a recent LinkedIn survey conducted by Canadian recruitment agency Robert Half, 38 per cent of Canadians say they are stressed about what to wear if they are returning to the office after a few years of working from home.

This was the biggest concern among a number of stresses, including dealing with distractions (31 per cent), bringing/buying lunch (21 per cent) and deciding whether to hug, shake hands or wave at co-workers (11 per cent).

“There’s a level of social anxiety about returning to an office, and the idea of seeing colleagues for the very first time and in some circumstances,” says Mike Shekhtman, regional director at Robert Half.

On top of that, Mr. Shekhtman says that office workers have been able to dress more casually at home over the past two years and may need to buy a new wardrobe before heading back to the office.

“After two years of hastily throwing a business jacket over a T-shirt and sweatpants while letting people into our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, our tolerance for conformity – and discomfort – has changed,” Allison Shapira recently wrote in Harvard Business Review.

How companies can mitigate the stress

Mr. Shekhtman says that your company’s dress code policy can have an impact on employee retention.

“When an organization is too strict, it can make workers feel like they’re being micromanaged and can’t be themselves at work, which can ultimately impact morale,” he says.

He suggests companies consider refreshing their dress code policy to allow more flexibility, and says it’s important people understand the “why” behind those decisions.

“Provide a purpose and make it really clear to the individual that you’re bringing back to the office why you’re bringing them back so they see the value in them returning,” he says.

When people better understand the value in returning and are even excited about it, it may help offset the stress they feel.

There’s still a lot to learn

Mr. Shekhtman notes leaders need to take the time to understand people’s individual concerns.

“Everyone’s journey [has been] a little bit different in the last two and a half years … be aware, empathetic and [thoughtful] – that process will really help people return back to an office environment,” he says.

It’s also important to address any biases or inequities in your policies. For example, does your dress code single out a specific group of people for no good reason.

“No employer is perfect and we don’t have a road map. Be patient and know people are going to make mistakes,” Mr. Shekhtman says.

What I’m reading around the web

  • Ernst & Young produces an electric vehicle adoption preparedness index that factors in supply, demand and policies for EVs. Of the 14 countries surveyed, Canada ranks second last.
  • When you think about climate change, does your job immediately come to mind? Read how extreme weather events have a direct impact on some workers, and how unions are mobilizing to take action.
  • Data shows that some companies are taking part in “labour hoarding” – a trend where businesses hold on to employees, and ride out uncertainty, as part of a strategy to avoid the long-term costs of hiring and training in the future.
  • It looks like something positive has come out of the nationwide Roger’s outage earlier this year. Canada’s major telecom companies have formally agreed to provide emergency roaming and other mutual assistance if there is another major outage.

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