Why Most Black Professional Workers Don’t Want to Return to Offices

Black office workers / Unsplash

The anxiety that engulfed Sandra McPherson surprised her. After working from home for more than a year because of the pandemic, she received an email notifying her an office-return date had been set, and, in an instant, she said she “felt tense. It was immediate. I had felt like that before — when I was about to skydive in Arizona.”

She said her parachute provided relief and even exhilaration. The prospect of returning to the office, however, did not feel as liberating.

Part of that was the comfort and convenience of working from home. There was also avoiding Los Angeles’ notorious traffic, dispensing with work attire and negotiating office politics.

“But that wasn’t what made me feel like I couldn’t breathe when I read the email,” said McPherson, who works in website development and maintenance. “It was the snide remarks, almost always about race. I loved my job, what I did, but as one of three Black people in an office of about maybe 80, there was always something from my white colleagues that made me feel uncomfortable or offended me.

“Some of it was intentional. Most of it was. A little of it was just sort of unconscious. All of it just wears on you. I was really upset.”

After a year of “not having to deal with that … that unnecessary nonsense,” McPherson said she could not bear returning to the office. So she used the three-month notice to create her own business and quit her job.

“I should have done it long ago, when one of my white peers said to me one day, ‘So, I thought affirmative action was over. How you get here?’ He thought it was funny,” she said.

When Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, she said she overheard a manager say, “Guess that boat to Africa gonna be full.”

“And they looked at me and snickered,” she recalled. “That kind of crap. It’s sickening. And worse, it’s tolerated by leadership. Once I learned I could do my job away from that, I couldn’t go back.”

McPherson, who is using her maiden name to avoid retaliation, is not alone in her anxiety about returning to pre-coronavirus working conditions in the office. A study by Future Forum, a research firm developed by Slack Technologies, the workplace communication company, indicated that just 3 percent of Black professional workers were accepting of going back into the office full time.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Curtis Bunn