In this business English vocabulary lesson, you will learn useful words for discussing the return to work after Covid. It’s time for workers to return to the office and get back to normal, or is it?

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Business English Vocabulary Lesson on the Return to Work

With times changing and employees returning to the office after Covid, I thought it would be useful for this business English lesson to cover vocabulary on the topic of returning to work.

Many of the words we’re going to cover are being discussed in the news and amongst friends as talking points. We can’t be sure on how these changes will play out, which is why I called the lesson ‘back to normal?’ At this point, who knows what is going to happen?!

◼️ The vocabulary in this lesson is ideal for advanced students of English.

Useful Business English Vocabulary

We will begin by learning words which refer to influences coming in. These words relate to how work is going to be different after Covid.

F.O.R.T.O / FORTO Meaning

This is a very new word or acronym, which stands for fear of returning to the office. If someone’s been working at home for a long time, they have become used to their home environment and wearing comfortable lounge clothes all day. Now that they are expected to return to work, suddenly they’ve got to put on their old uniform, wear a suit jacket, and put on their office shoes again! All their habits are changing, which makes them anxious about going back to the office. They might also have safety anxieties about returning to work.

Rush-hour commute (collocation)
If lots of people are going to be returning to the office, then we will also have the return of the rush-hour commute. This refers to the two times each day when lots of people are either going to work or coming home. During the rush-hour commute, public transport is crowded and there is a lot of traffic on the roads. On the tube in London, you might find yourself squashed up against other people. Will the rush-hour commute be returning? We’ll find out…

When people return to work after Covid, will the trains be crowded?

Reboarding (n; business English)
‘Reboarding’ is another new word. It is being used by companies to describe the process of bringing employees back to the office after a long absence. The word comes from reboarding a ship: going off a ship and coming back onto it. In the area of work, ‘reboarding’ is used to refer to people who need extra support and training to return to work.

Office cubicle (n)
Something that’s coming back (or is it?) is the office cubicle. When you work in an office cubicle, you work from a private desk inside a much larger room.

Returning to work: the office cubicle

Perhaps there’ll be a change in the way office space is used because office cubicles are a very cramped way of working. Social distancing is impossible when colleagues work close by each other in cubicles. Perhaps post-Covid there’ll be fewer employees working in the office. We will see…

Flexible _______ (phrase)
A word that’s coming up a lot is ‘flexible’. As people return to work, employers are allowing more flexibility, as regards employee working hours. This means not going to the office 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday, in the old way. Instead, flexible working could mean that you work in the office two days per week, and the rest of the time from home.

Look out for the most common collocations with the word ‘flexible’, which are:

flexible working

flexible furlough

flexible train tickets

Banter (n)
The return to work brings with it the return of office banter. This is non-work related playful conversation with your colleagues. Bantering with colleagues didn’t happen as much during lockdowns because remote working killed the spontaneity of it.

Although, I will add a thought here… office banter might not be returning. This is because banter can involve insults, teasing and making fun of people. There’s a very blurry line between banter and what’s called discrimination or harassment. I think people are going to be more wary about being involved in banter because it could get you into trouble. In some cases, bantering with colleagues could even get you fired.

Health and safety (n)
Undoubtedly, an influence that will be coming in more is health and safety. The health and safety protocol about how you are expected to work around other people is likely to be stricter than ever. I’m sure there’ll be lots of new rules and procedures. There will be new ways of doing things, which people are going to have to adapt to.


We will now turn our attention to learning vocabulary which is to do with influences that are on their way out. It is likely that these things will not be occur as much, now that people are returning to work…

What does WFH mean?

WFH is an acronym meaning ‘work from home’. Some people will be sad to see the end of working from home, while others can’t wait to return to the office.

Hot desking (n)
Hot desking is when in an office, you don’t have a set place where you work from. You can move around freely, depending on where you want to be on that day.

Returning to work: hot desking in a modern office

Perhaps hot desking will fall out of fashion, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. People may start to think that hot desking is risky because it involves moving around. This could lead to spreading germs. Therefore, we might see the end of that…

Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue refers to the tired feeling and headache you can sometimes get from attending an online meeting. It can be caused by attending a boring meeting where you are just being spoken at. Another reason it can happen is spending too much time in different conference calls.

Furlough meaning:

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly called ‘furlough’) was a government scheme that provided financial support to businesses that were forced to close or operate at reduced capacity during lockdowns. As part of the furlough scheme, the government paid a proportion of employee salaries so that businesses wouldn’t need to make people redundant (lose their jobs). Now that most people are expected to return to work, the furlough scheme is winding down (coming to an end).

Thank you for watching this business English vocabulary lesson. Now you will be more confident discussing the latest talking points, as regards the return to work after Covid.


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Author

Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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