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How COVID experiences will reshape the workplace

Christina Pazzanese

Harvard Staff Writer

Scholars say shutdowns and remote work yielded insights for employers, workers

Now that COVID-19 vaccines are finally here, employers have begun looking ahead to an eventual full return to the workplace in the coming months. But even though their offices may look exactly as they did last spring when most white-collar organizations shifted to remote operations, they will find that things will be very different, say Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty who study the work world.

The pandemic has sped up macro trends in consumer behavior, business management, and hiring. That, along with insights gained by months of adjustments to work roles, schedules, routines, and priorities, have prompted employers and employees to reconsider many default assumptions about what they do along with how and why they do it.

The changes will vary by field and employer, but experts predict flexibility and safety will be top priorities that could bring, for instance, a rethinking of the five-day work week and the way employees earn and spend vacation time. Also, the power dynamics between employers and employees will shift as each reappraise the other’s roles in light of what they learned during the pandemic. And organizations will likely give more attention to employees’ mental health care, getting a closer look at the daily personal pressures their staffs face.

“It’s the Next Normal we’re headed to, not ‘back to normal,’ and that, for a lot of companies, is going to feature changes in work practices, changes in employee expectations of their employer, and companies learning from this duress about what they can do to be more effective and efficient and attractive employers,” said Joseph B. Fuller , professor of management practice and co-founder of Managing the Future of Work project at HBS.

One of the first challenges businesses face will be the question of whether to ask, or even insist, that employees be vaccinated before coming back to work. For a variety of reasons, not everyone will agree to do so, leaving employers to struggle with how to protect their other employees, customers, and clients, while not violating civil rights laws.

One year into the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal regulatory agency that oversees private sector workplace safety in all 50 states, had not established national COVID safety standards under President Trump, leaving individual companies and industries, like meatpacking, to set their own protocols and policies.

“It’s bananas to entrust our public health decisions to disaggregated, atomized employers making their own decisions about what’s good enough and what’s not,” said Terri Ellen Gerstein , director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program . “With OSHA abdicating its responsibility, that’s been happening in too many places.”

“It’s the Next Normal we’re headed to, not ‘back to normal …” said Joseph B. Fuller, co-founder of Managing the Future of Work project at Harvard Business School.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed an executive order Jan. 21 directing OSHA to issue revised COVID-19 safety guidance for businesses within the next two weeks. The order also calls for the agency to consider setting emergency temporary COVID safety standards, including whether masks should be required in workplaces, by March 15; a top-to-bottom review of OSHA enforcement efforts, which worker advocates, including Gerstein, have called lax; and begin focused enforcement on firms engaging in large-scale violations. The order did not, however, address the issue of whether workers could be required by employers to receive vaccinations before returning to their workplaces.

Employers should “absolutely recommend” employees get vaccinated, if that’s their goal, but not demand they do so, advises Ashley V. Whillans , a behavioral psychologist at HBS who recently surveyed 44,000 remote workers in 44 U.S. states and 88 countries to study how the pandemic is affecting workplace attitudes and behaviors.

“Make it an opt-out policy but have a formal process for opting out that doesn’t involve having to email your boss or talk to a specific manager in the office. We’ve shown in other contexts that having formal policies that don’t involve speaking to another person who’s directly responsible for your compensation can help employees feel confident in making decisions that are more aligned with their personal values and less likely to make decisions based” on how others may perceive them, she said.

“I think the workplace issues in our country so often are dealt with in this zero-sum way, where worker interests are seen as adversarial to business interests,” said Gerstein. “And this is really a situation where everyone has to make sure that people are safe at work.”

That’s just the beginning. The pandemic has jolted the foundation of a workplace model that had been relatively unchanged since the late 1920s: employees traveling from home to a workplace five days a week, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., to complete their obligations.

Since March, employers have had time to reassess which jobs and employees are truly essential to the success of their business, while workers have been able to reconsider the daily demands their jobs place on their lives, such as travel, commuting, or following rigid work day schedules, and whether they’re still willing to tolerate them, said Fuller, who also co-chairs the Project on Workforce with Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty.

That’s led to once less-common trends like workplace flexibility, “work from anywhere,” and virtual meetings becoming more mainstream. With broader acceptance, Fuller expects many knowledge-based industries will move to a four-day work week, cut back significantly on travel for internal activities like training and sales meetings, and do away with vacation policies tied to an employee’s years of service. Instead, workers could take as much time off as they wish provided their work is done, an approach first embraced by Silicon Valley firms.

In the coming months, employers will need to provide more support to employees than ever before, said Ashley V. Whillans, a behavioral psychologist at Harvard Business School.

Courtesy of Ashley V. Whillans

It has also disrupted the balance of power at work. Where employers used to set the terms of employment — where, when, and how the work gets done — Fuller said the question of “who decides” is now much more up for grabs.

Organizations that offer employees the ability to work flexible workday schedules, to choose when and how they come into the office, and that have adopted increased COVID safety precautions score highest with their own workers, Whillans said her COVID survey data shows. So as employers prepare to reopen, they would be wise to maintain and emphasize work flexibility and safety regulations and allow staff to come back to the workplace at their own discretion.

“Organizations need to clearly communicate with employees their expectations for employee engagement, how often they assume that employees need to come in, and if there are any changes to office policies, like lunches or common spaces not being available, they should clearly communicate this as a safety precaution,” said Whillans. Too often, firms “under-communicate” out of fear of how messages will be received, when research shows that conveying as much information as possible, being almost “overly transparent,” helps businesses win trust.

One effect of the pandemic that will persist long after businesses reopen is employees’ mental health, Whillans and Fuller say.

The virus’ physical, social, and economic impacts have not been felt equally, which has led to “significant” mental health strains, including increased anxiety and depression, on people at every level within organizations and across industries. Even those who did not become sick or laid off report worries about their own health and that of loved ones, the possibility of losing income, or just the constant uncertainty over when, or if, their lives will return to normal, said Whillans.

“This is really a situation where everyone has to make sure that people are safe at work.” Terri Ellen Gerstein, Harvard Law School

“We are observing high levels of burnout and stress,” even among workers who still appear to be high functioning, said Whillans. With the current economic recession, employees are “disincentivized to speak openly and honestly about their stress and frustration” out of fear, or they cope by minimizing its effect with comparisons with others who seem to be worse off.

“Workplaces don’t have a good grasp on the depths of the stress that employees are experiencing,” she said.

Fuller said many business leaders got a “real wake-up call” about the ubiquity of mental health issues among employees during this work-from-home period, especially the stress and depression caused by the pandemic, and “it’s been sobering” for them to see firsthand how acute the effects can be. It’s also given many a better understanding of the daily complexities their staff members must navigate, like caring for young children or elderly parents, just to be able to get to the office and be productive. “It’s caused them to have to reflect on the totality of their workers’ life experience,” he added.

In the coming months, employers will need to provide more support to employees than ever before, either in the form of temporary relief, job sharing, or other incentives, in order to help them deal with the increased stress they’ve been experiencing, said Whillans.

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“Organizations are likely to miss thinking about well-being as one of the decision-making factors that goes into whether they open and how they open,” she said. “I would really underscore the importance of organizations not overlooking employees’ health and safety concerns because burnt-out employees are going to be less productive and more likely to quit.”

Virtually every business has discovered new things, both good and bad, about themselves over the last 10 months, but the smartest ones will have used the time to also ask new and different questions of themselves, said Fuller.

“They should use their learning from this period to ask themselves questions like: What have I learned about what allows people to be productive and have a better quality of work life? And, should I be revisiting the way we do things around here based on that? What have I learned about communicating with my workforce? And what do I want to make sure we continue to do because [the] practice that we developed in this crisis is better than what we were doing?”

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A Detailed Plan for Getting Americans Back to Work

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Rethinking "Back to Work"

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Rethinking "Back to Work"

By: Ellen Ernst Kossek, Patricia Gettings, Kaumudi Misra, Tsedal Neeley, Ashley V. Whillans, Charlotte Lockhart, Claudia Goldin, Anne Helen Petersen, Charlie Warzel

Most organizations approach flexibility either as an ad hoc work-life accommodation or as permission for employees to get their work done on their own schedules--as long as they're available 24/7 to…

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Most organizations approach flexibility either as an ad hoc work-life accommodation or as permission for employees to get their work done on their own schedules--as long as they're available 24/7 to answer emails or put out fires. Neither approach is sustainable, say Ellen Ernst Kossek, Patricia Gettings, and Kaumudi Misra. In "The Future of Flexibility at Work," they argue that companies should instead consider a balanced approach that makes employer and employee needs equal. According to multiple surveys, most people want a mix of in-person and remote work. But how do you design successful hybrid work plans? In "12 Questions About Hybrid Work, Answered," Tsedal Neeley explains that it isn't just about schedules and office space. Leaders must consider inclusion, performance measurement, trust, cybersecurity, and more. As companies explore a variety of flexible work options, one with promise is the four-day workweek, in which the standard 40 hours per week is reduced to 32 hours, with the same pay and the same productivity expectations. In "A Guide to Implementing the 4-Day Workweek," Ashley Whillans and Charlotte Lockhart outline a six-step approach to planning, piloting, and rolling out this change. In "The Problem with 'Greedy Work,'" Claudia Goldin explains why high-salary jobs with long, inflexible hours deepen the gender pay gap--and what to do about it. She also suggests how couples can make their relationships more equitable in terms of work and family obligations and provides examples of industries that have embraced flexibility and equal pay. As organizations debate whether and how to return to the office, it's worth asking bigger questions about the purpose of work--and remote work. In "Remote Work Isn't a Perk to Toss Into the Mix," journalists Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel discuss what companies have gotten right and wrong in this area, why employers and employees clash over it, and why it's so hard to rethink your relationship with your job.

Oct 12, 2021

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How to Overcome Return-to-Office Resistance

by  James R. Bailey and  Scheherazade Rehman

For Harvard Business Review

Illustration by Barbara Gibson

Many organizations that allowed knowledge workers to do their jobs remotely during the pandemic now seem committed to getting them back together in the office, and bosses are trying to get their teams on board.  Although the pandemic has been a once-in-a-century disruption to business, navigating this challenge is no different than managing any other kind of organizational change with professional and personal implications. The key is to engage one on one with people to move people them from active resistance to neutral or supportive positions.

Slowly, and in fits and starts, knowledge workers who did their jobs from home for most of the pandemic are now being asked to return to the office, full or part time. Leaders argue for a resumption of in-person work because it enhances collaboration and innovation. But many employees are balking. They liked the flexibility, autonomy, and feelings of safety that came with working remotely. And they cite many  legitimate reasons  for not wanting to go back: Covid infection risk, of course, but also long commutes, discretion, work-life balance, and office distractions. Rather than return, some are opting to become part of “ The Great Resignation .”

Still, many organizations seem committed to getting people back together in the office. So they’re scrambling to design  appropriate and fair policies , and bosses are trying to get their teams on board.  And, although the pandemic has been a once-in-a-century disruption to business, navigating this challenge should be no different than managing any other kind of organizational change with professional  and  personal implications. Any type of change engenders resistance in some, enthusiasm is others, and all the variations in between.

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Return-to-Office Full Time Is Losing. Hybrid Work Is On the Rise

Tech Layoffs Mean Even More Empty Offices In San Francisco

Y ou might have thought that by the end of May, with the pandemic officially over, people would be getting back to the office. But a new report suggests that the share of workers in-office full time is actually shrinking as hybrid work is growing.

The share of people in the office full time dropped to 42% in the second quarter of 2023, down from 49% in the first quarter, according to The Flex Report, which collects insights from more than 4,000 companies employing more than 100 million people globally. Meanwhile, the share of offices with hybrid work arrangements hit 30% in the quarter, up from 20% the previous quarter.

“It certainly looks like hybrid is gaining share,” says Robert Sadow, the CEO and co-founder of Scoop Technologies, which puts out the Flex report. “There’s an adoption cycle like any other technology—you have early adopters and laggards.”

Work is moving toward what Sadow calls “structured hybrid,” in which there are a set number of days that people are required to come into the office. The average minimum days required is 2.53, with both two days and three days being popular, he says. Tuesday is the most popular day required, followed by Wednesday and Thursday. Few offices require a Friday presence, and only 24% require a Monday presence.

Of course, not all companies are going to accept that they can’t get employees to return to offices for which they have to keep paying rent. Both Twitter and Tesla require full-time office attendance, and Apple is reportedly tracking employee attendance and threatening action against staff who don’t come in. Workers at Disney are required to go into the office four days a week, though thousands signed a petition protesting the policy.

Opponents argue that return to office policies disadvantage people of color and women who are discriminated against in person, and make life more challenging for working parents who don’t want to waste hours commuting and can’t afford space near the office in today’s housing market.

The Flex Report suggests that workplace flexibility differs dramatically depending on the company’s industry, size, and location. Nearly two in three companies that have fewer than 500 employees are fully flexible, meaning employees can be remote if they want. By contrast, only 13% of companies with more than 50,000 employees are fully flexible, though 66% do allow for structured hybrid work.

States in the west and northeast parts of the U.S. have the highest share of companies that are fully flexible, with Oregon, Washington, and Colorado topping the list; Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana had the highest share of companies that are full time in the office.

There are other signs, in addition to the Flex Report, that five-days-a-week return to office plans are not succeeding. The share of days worked from home, at around 30%, appears to have stabilized at about five times what it was before the pandemic, according to research by Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who studies remote work. That could be a good thing for both employees and employers: One Bloom study found that people who worked from home were more productive and one-third less likely to quit than those who didn’t.

Office occupancy in the top 10 most populous U.S. cities was just 49.9% of pre-pandemic levels the first week of May, according to data from Kastle Systems, which tracks keycard swipes across 2,600 buildings. One result of that trend is that consumer spending has plummeted in center cities in places like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.—meanwhile, home values in exurbs and suburbs have continued to surge.

The commercial real estate market hasn’t completely tanked yet because many companies are signed into long-term leases. What’s more, the format of structured hybrid work means they can’t dramatically shrink their spaces yet. If every employee comes in three days a week, but they’re the same three days a week, the company still needs the same amount of space as it did before the pandemic. It’s just paying for empty office space on certain days of the week.

Bloom expects the share of people working from home more frequently to only trend upward as technology advances. With better video calls, augmented reality, and virtual reality, there may start to be less of a difference from working in an office and being at home, he says. Office occupancy rates may go up to 55%, he says, but he predicts they’ll start trending down again by the end of 2024.

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Harvard Business Review - Return to work programs come of age

This article discusses the use of return to work programs to recruit mid-career professionals back into the workforce.

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How Much Will Remote Work Continue After the Pandemic?

A new study of pandemic-induced remote workers and their employers suggests that at least 16 percent will remain at-home workers long after the COVID-19 crisis has receded.

The survey of 1,800 people in both small and larger businesses also found:

  • While overall levels of remote work are high, there is considerable variation across industries.
  • Remote work is much more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers.
  • Respondents in better educated and higher paid industries have also observed less productivity loss from the transition to remote work.
  • More than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that it will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

“These estimates suggest that at least 16 percent of American workers will switch from professional offices to working at home at least two days per week as a result of COVID- 19,” the researchers conclude. “This would represent a dramatic and persistent shift in workplace norms around remote work, and has implications for companies, employees, and policymakers alike.”

The working paper, What Jobs Are Being Done at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis? Evidence from Firm-Level Surveys , was conducted by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Zoe Cullen and Associate Professors Michael Luca and Christopher Stanton, with colleagues Alexander Bartik, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, and Edward Glaeser, a Harvard University economics professor.

They surveyed 1,770 members of Alignable, an online platform for small-business leaders. To supplement that small-business data, a second survey was completed by 70 business economists belonging to the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). Alignable respondents were generally owners or managers of small businesses, whereas NABE respondents generally work at larger firms and were not owners.

“The pandemic has brought about tremendous changes, and we couldn’t have anticipated the scale or speed at which they have occurred.”

The surveys gathered respondents’ impressions about the scope of the switch to remote work during the pandemic, the ease with which different jobs could be performed online, the productivity effects of remote work, and the potential for continued remote work after the threat of COVID-19 transmission subsides.

“The pandemic has brought about tremendous changes, and we couldn’t have anticipated the scale or speed at which they have occurred,” says Stanton, the Marvin Bower Associate Professor of Business Administration at HBS. “I think there’s an important question about the extent to which this is going to be a more permanent change or not, so for me, that’s the main motivation for the paper, as well as trying to explore whether people are more or less productive given this new environment.”

The results confirmed high levels of COVID-related remote work, which the researchers define as working from home at least two days per week. Of those surveyed, 45 percent of Alignable members reported that workers within their companies had seen their jobs move online. In the NABE survey, about 80 percent of respondents said their companies had adopted some form of remote work post-crisis.

The research also confirmed that higher-paying jobs that require more education have a higher capacity to become remote jobs, highlighting concerns about inequality. “The NABE firms seem to have more remote-working, likely due to the fact that more of these firms are in white collar industries where remote working is easier,” the researchers wrote.

Are remote workers less productive?

While past research suggests that many American workers could successfully perform their jobs from outside the office, companies have been slow to adopt remote work arrangements for a variety of reasons, says Luca, the Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor at HBS.

“There can be important barriers to switching to remote work, even if an employer allows it,” says Luca. Some employees worry that working from home means being passed over for promotions. Other workers might prefer an office environment where they feel more productive (even though some of their colleagues might feel more productive at home), or they find it easier to connect with people at the office. “These challenges can be overcome, but managers need to create an environment that will allow remote work to be successful,” Luca says.

In the study of small-business employees by Luca and his colleagues, 29 percent of Alignable members reported that moving to remote work increased their productivity. Among NABE members, that figure was a consistent 28 percent.

Contrary to expectations, workers whose jobs were more conducive to remote work on average did not report comparatively higher gains in productivity as a result of the transition to working outside the office, says Luca. Those findings, the researchers believe, reflect conditions surrounding the pandemic that have made childcare unavailable for many professionals and have added other stressors.

The view across industries

To better understand variations across industries, the researchers compared the survey results with a remote-work feasibility index developed earlier this year by fellow researchers Johnathan Dingel and Brent Neiman of the University of Chicago. They found that the index is strikingly reliable when it comes to predicting the scale of the transition to remote work within a given industry as well as in predicting the productivity gains or losses the survey respondents reported.

“There can be important barriers to switching to remote work, even if an employer allows it.”

For example, the finance and insurance industry, which the index predicted would have a high capacity for remote work, saw 79 percent of jobs move online, according to the survey results. However, while about 32 percent of survey respondents in that industry reported productivity gains, the industry as a whole reported an average productivity loss of 13 percent.

More than one-third of respondents to both the Alignable and NABE surveys said they believed that at least 40 percent of newly remote employees would continue to work remotely at least some of the time, even after social distancing restrictions end. That means, however, that nearly 60 percent of respondents believed that the majority of their workforce would return nearly exclusively to the office, indicating the potential for a more temporary condition.

Although highly impressionistic, the survey data illuminates the scale at which workers quickly began working from home, causing a potential shift in the nature of work that may very well outlast the pandemic.

“Despite the majority of employees returning to the office, the scale of remote work during the pandemic has the potential to lead to a persistent change in the organization of jobs for many firms and workers,” says Cullen, adding “in a way that wouldn’t have seemed possible last year.”

About the Author

Kristen Senz is a social media editor and writer for Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

[Image: iStock Photo ]

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Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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How to Deal with a Condescending Colleague

harvard business review return to work

It can be particularly roiling when your know-it-all coworker is actually right.

Working with a condescending coworker is irritating at best and career-limiting at worst. But you don’t need to sit back and suffer. In this article, the author outlines steps you can take to curb your colleague’s bluster or at least lessen its impact on you and your career.

What do you do about a colleague who is always telling you how to do your job? Or someone who seems to always have the answer, implying that you don’t? Or a coworker who uses a patronizing tone whenever they talk to you? Dealing with a condescending colleague can be frustrating, demoralizing, and even infuriating. And while it certainly doesn’t feel good to interact with someone who monopolizes conversations or consistently positions their ideas a superior, these interactions can also negatively impact your reputation and career.

harvard business review return to work

  • Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, cohost of the Women at Work podcast , and the author of two books: Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict . She writes and speaks about workplace dynamics. Watch her TEDx talk on conflict and follow her on LinkedIn . amyegallo

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