The office may be ready for employees to return, but are they ready for the office? Many miss in-person contact and are eager to get back, while others have adapted to working from home and enjoy skipping their previous commute. In the middle are those who prefer a hybrid schedule that includes both working from home and going into the office as needed.
According to an August 2021 survey conducted by Morning Consult for the New York Times, 45% percent of people working from home are ready to return full-time to the office, while 31% would prefer to work remotely on a permanent basis. The remaining 24% are most interested in the hybrid model.
For an effective return-to-work program, managers should assess the needs of each team member before deciding who will return to work or make necessary changes to work locations. Managers can work with HR leaders to gather information about employee preferences through surveys, all-hands meetings, and one-on-ones. Take advantage of business management software and other digital tools to analyze the data and identify preferences.
“After a year of drastic change, many business leaders are eager to restore a sense of normalcy and welcome staff back to the office, but reopening doors will bring new obstacles for companies to navigate,” Paul McDonald of Robert Half Recruiters recently told Market Watch. “Not all employees will be ready—or willing—to return to the workplace, so staying flexible and responsive to their needs will be critical.”
5 Essential Tips for a Successful Post-Pandemic Office Return
CEOs and executive teams may seem more concerned about unused office real estate than employees’ feelings. When they press for a quick return to work, it’s up to team leaders and managers to consider the different perspectives involved and address all major concerns. Despite the desire to get back to business as usual, most companies with remote team members will continue to support remote work even as they reopen offices. If your company doesn’t currently have business management software to support communication and record-keeping for remote workers, it’s time to invest.
1. Communicate Clearly and Transparently
Team members need lead time to prepare to return to work. Management should communicate openly about the office return plan and answer questions as they arise. The best way to minimize uncertainty is by providing timely updates if new government mandates and other circumstances require changes to the plan.
2. Treat Team Members as Individuals
Show empathy towards team members who express fear about returning to the office. Remember that each person experienced the pandemic in a unique way and will need an individual plan for their new role in the workplace. Look for solutions that maximize individual productivity.
3. Adhere to Fairness Principles
Anytime there’s flexibility in the workplace, someone is bound to raise fairness questions. Be sensitive to perceived favoritism or bias when deciding who can work remotely and who will need to come into the office.
4. Promote Company-Wide Flexibility
Recognize that the workplace is experiencing the dawn of a “new normal” that is still dealing with COVID infections, even as many companies are discussing their return to the office. In planning, scheduling, and attendance, flexibility will be key in determining which companies successfully pivot and which falter along the way.
5. Solicit Regular Feedback, Then Respond
Keep team members engaged in the return-to-work conversation and provide feedback opportunities. Meet regularly with remote team members and monitor how they’re feeling during the return-to-work process. Be prepared to change direction if input from team members indicates that something isn’t working.
If you are looking for a workforce management solution, contact coAmplifi today. Our beta version of our workforce management software will be released in 2022 and we cannot wait to assist your business with solving challenges like returning to the office.