3 workplace rules that are being thrown out the window when offices reopen in 2021

When offices reopen this year, the biggest change for most of us will be moving to a hybrid working model. This is an approach that combines remote and in-office work in any combination of days per week or month. Before the pandemic, hybrid models were becoming more common but were still considered an unusual perk requiring justification. Following the pandemic, hybrid work will be the norm instead of the exception.

The hybrid model comes with changes to workplace rules you might not expect. There will be new norms that form, but there are others that will likely go away. Here are three rules you can expect to go out the window.

1. Working hours

The hybrid working model supports flexible working hours, so there is less mandate to start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. However, with that flexibility comes even more pressure to perform. Employees want to show they can do just as well at home as in the office. Many may feel the need to prove they have been “doing something.” Flexible hours also mean managers may feel like their team is available all the time—instead of different people being available at different times.

Some would argue the 40-hour workweek skipped town a while ago. As technology allowed others to reach us anytime, anywhere, the always-on culture emerged. For many of us, this got even worse during the pandemic. Time we would have spent commuting filled up with meetings. To be “off” requires concerted effort and a willingness to be that person who is unreachable at certain times.

Instead of having commonly agreed-upon working hours when offices reopen, we may see individuals setting boundaries on when they are and are not available. That will include time commuting, picking up kids, appointments, or just downtime.

2. Dress codes will take a step down

If you have been dreading trying on your pre-pandemic work clothes and planning to order extra Spanx, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Dress code rules following the pandemic will likely be a lot less formal than they were in 2019.

The big emphasis will be on comfort. We have gotten used to being comfortable this past year, and in a hybrid model, it is awkward to have some people in business suits in an office while others are in t-shirts on Zoom. On top of that, with many people moving farther away from work sites, there will be a desire for comfortable clothing during long commutes.

Thanks to the pandemic, there are also fewer clothing stores to choose from. According to Sourcing Journal, the pandemic accelerated the extinction of retail clothing stores. On their list of stores that had to declare bankruptcy, close sites or otherwise downsize are some office-wear favorites:

  • Brooks Brothers
  • Chico’s (also owner of White House Black Market)
  • Century 21
  • Diane Von Furstenberg
  • DSW
  • Michael Kors
  • Nordstrom
  • Rent the Runway (they closed five retail stores and moved back online)
  • RTW Retailwinds Inc. (owner of New York & Company)

3. “I am just here to work, I am not here to socialize.”

The days of only being in the office for work and not socializing with coworkers are over in a hybrid work environment. Why else are you there except to see people? You can be as antisocial as you want to be at home. The point of being in the office will be to have more than just work-focused interactions. It will be harder to opt-out of team-building exercises, lunches and happy hours.

This is probably a moment of dread for many introverts who relished the time at home. For extroverts, it is the moment they have been waiting for.

Key takeaway

There is more to adjust to in a hybrid work environment than many realize. Office rules in place before the pandemic were disrupted. Some will come back in different forms, while others may be gone forever. The important thing is to start thinking about the new norms and how you plan to adjust.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.