“In Boston, as across the nation, a ‘back-to-work March’ has begun. With the omicron variant now on the wane, companies from American Express to Meta and Citigroup – are officially calling on employees to return to the office this month, while also trying to stay flexible enough so as not to lose those who prefer to work from home.” T. Smith, NPR, March 8, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
EXCERPT: Returning to the office, a moment of joy for some. Others, would rather stay home, Tovia Smith, NPR, March 8, 2022
“Steve Tordone has been waiting for this moment for two years. Sure, he’s got a great set up for working at home, and it was nice to be around the family and the dogs. But he prefers working at his office in a downtown Boston high-rise where he works as a financial advisor. ‘I’m an outdoor cat and I just want I want to see people,’ he says, ‘I can’t wait for it to get crowded.’ Many firms are starting with ‘soft openings,’ but already, offices, streets and garages are filling back up.
‘It makes you so happy,’ says Samrawit Embaye, an attendant at one garage that put out its ‘Full’ sign. ‘If you see people coming, you feel like you are living real life.’
‘Definitely, it’s been an ordeal,’ moans Pragadish Kalaivanan, a marketing analyst, who’s somewhat less sanguine about the trade-offs…Waking up at the crack of dawn to go back to the office is almost impossible and not fun…He also laments giving up the fresh, healthy meals he was cooking for himself at home, having to get on increasingly crowded subway cars where he worries about catching COVID-19, and he’s mourning the loss of the flexibility he had at home to do his creative best, whenever inspiration strikes…Bosses are allowing flexibility because ‘there’s a danger in being too hardline,’ says Luis von Ahn, co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, a language-learning platform… More than 80% of the staff came back on March 1, he says. But just to be sure, he’s doubling down on office culture hoping to make it even more enticing.
For example, ‘homecoming week’ included an ice-cream social and happy hour…Firms around the nation are all too aware that requiring workers to come in every day, may actually end up pushing them out the door…Some workers want less human interaction, while some want boundaries between work and life. Attorney Brian Palmucci, can relate. On his way to a court hearing in Boston, he says he’s more than happy to just keep meeting with people on Zoom, instead of in person. Especially, he says, as long as COVID-19 is still a concern.
‘I have two young kids, and I think the long-term health ramifications of COVID are unknown. And so it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.’
But as case numbers have declined, Sameul Gebru is among those who believe what’s more unhealthy is “being under house arrest,” as he called it, where there are no “boundaries between work and life.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Steve Tordone has got a great set up for working at home.
- He prefers working at his office in a downtown Boston high-rise.
- With the omicron variant now on the wane, companies are officially calling on employees to return to the office this month.
- Some companies are trying to stay flexible enough so as not to lose those who prefer to work from home.
- Many workers prefer to be at work and not being cooped up.
- Being back in the office is ‘a blessing’ for some who missed their colleagues.
- Pragadish Kalaivanan, a marketing analyst, feels that it’s been an ordeal.
- He’s somewhat less sanguine about the trade-offs at work.
- He also laments giving up the fresh, healthy meals he was cooking for himself at home.
- some employees feel that being back in the office can often be a distraction from their other interests.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Being back in the office is great for some who missed their colleagues.
- To McLallen, the upsides far outweigh even her hour-long commute.
- Waking up at the crack of dawn too go back to the office is almost impossible.
- Wednesdays are mandatory on this firm.
- It’s especially critical for young workers to be at the office.
- Some companies are making in-person work optional.
- Some employees worry about riding on crowded subway cars.
- Happy hour and a movie night were some of the manyperks Duolingo offered employees.
- Bosses is allowing flexibility because there’s a danger in being too hardline.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “I’m an outdoor cat and I just want I want to see people, I can’t wait for it to get crowded.”
- “It makes you so happy…If you see people coming, you feel like you are living real life.”
- “I love being around people, and not being cooped up in my bedroom.”
- “Waking up at the crack of dawn to go back to the office is almost impossible and not fun.”
- “Top talent wants some amount of flexibility.”
- “How we operate, what our ethos is, how to do their jobs, how to treat clients – they’ve got to learn all that, and they won’t see it from their kitchen.”
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- If you have a job, have you returned to your office? If yes, what kind of work schedule do you have? Do you have to come in every day or do you work some days in the office and some days from home?
- Has your boss added any perks for the employees? If so what are they?
- Which do you prefer, working from home or going to the office? Why?
- Why does Steve Tordone want to work from his office and not from home?
- Explain how some companies are approaching their employees about returning to work.
- Maureen McLallen was happy to be back at work. What were some of her reasons?
- Why was Pragadish Kalaivanan so unhappy about returning to work?
- Why are bosses afraid of requiring employees come to work every day?
- To entice their employees back to work what are some of the perks Duolingo is offering?
- Why was attorney Brian Palmucci concerned about returning to his job?
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.