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The Pandemic Created New Workplace Tribes. Here’s How to Unite Them

Get past petty jealousies and renew workers’ “psychological contract,” experts say.

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Illustration by Oscar Bolton Green

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After months of juggling the demands of her job while home-schooling two under-10s, a friend who’s a partner at a big London media agency now must bridge the gap between two new workplace tribes: those who toiled throughout the lockdown and those who were on government-subsidized furlough.

A member of my friend’s team, out on full pay since March, rankled at a company diktat requiring the use of a portion of annual leave during the furlough. My friend was sticking to the rules, she told me, but also sticking up for the 85% of employees who had to work through the lockdown. There’s now a perception internally that people who weren’t in the office don’t understand how tough it was for those who kept working. Returnees taking vacation days this summer could foster resentment, says my friend, who requested anonymity to talk about internal workplace issues.