More and more companies are recalling their staff to the office as the year goes by. Management realizes the benefits of having their team in the office and present in a face-to-face setting at least a part of the time. Getting your employees to return to the office without feeling resentful, however, is looking to be a bit of a challenge. Here are some ways to manage this return without creating too much unhappiness amongst those who don’t want to return.
Implement Strong Flexibility Options
We hear it almost every day – the workplace has changed forever, and there is no clearer example of this than in what your employees will want from you when it comes to their working flexibility. This is especially true for employees like marketers, IT, and customer service that can pretty much work from anywhere remotely, or at least in a hybrid work model. There are many proven examples of why offering flexibility is key for your business, not least of which is to increase employee morale and boost engagement.
Branch Furniture, which specializes in creating stylish office furniture to improve ergonomics has some great ways that you can approach employee flexibility as you and your employees return to the office. While you are on their site, take their quiz and improve your workplace furniture’s style and ergonomics. They list six different ways you can implement employee flexibility, like adopting flexible work hours, work-from-home options, or even the more extreme options like changing to a 4-day work week.
Return In Phases
Most experts agree that simply requiring that all employees return to the office on the same day can cause a lot of anxiety and fears, particularly for those who have been isolating more strictly than others. While we’re slowly becoming more confident and accepting our new lives with the ever-present COVID-19 threat, we are not all at the same place mentally about it. For this reason, consider starting the return by having certain departments come in on certain days, or even implementing a hot desk solution with new SaaS programs. Having the whole office present in a big bang approach will be sure to drive up fears and a general opinion of not being cognisant of employee wellness amongst your employees.
Team Building Is Key, Again
It might have been a while since your employees have spent any meaningful time together. Some of their comradery and personal relationships might have suffered a bit because of it. It’s a really good time to spend some effort rebuilding that team cohesion and relationships with some teambuilding events. Don’t just force your staff together and expect them to bond in an artificial setting; instead, create structured events that can spark some laughs and conversation more naturally. This isn’t about creating an opportunity for your staff to talk about work, but to take a break from it and get to know each other more personally.
To keep your employees comfortable, think about holding some outdoor activities that might be fun as a team. Mini-golf and city-wide treasure hunts have been firm favorites recently. Don’t forget that the best team-building success is achieved by having staff from the same team and different teams mix. Don’t just use activities that mean going somewhere to build teamwork because there are plenty of things you can do in the office too.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All Anymore
We have all developed certain habits and things we like to do while we have been working at home. It might be doing the grocery shopping at 10 am on a Tuesday while the store is mostly empty, or it might be doing the school drop-off and pick-up personally instead of having the kids use the bus or join a lift club. Meeting your employees’ needs for these newly developed routines and activities – at least partially – will help the transition be smoother and met with less pushback.
The best practice for this is to develop a framework that spells out how flexible your company is going to be in allowing for these sorts of things. After all, as nice as it might be to allow it, having someone leave the office for an hour a day to pick up their kids from school can be disruptive to meetings and collaboration time.
Communicate The Benefits
As much as there are strong benefits to working from home, there are just as many benefits to working in the office. It is up to you to communicate and reinforce these benefits and make sure that your employees appreciate them. Face-to-face time within a team can lead to better performance and collaboration that might not be realized in the same way remotely. It is a good idea, without being too pushy, to be sure to point out to your staff when this collaboration and other successes are directly due to the team being together in a room, and not working remotely.
Sensitivity, flexibility, and adapting your policies and processes are the key to a successful return to the office for your employees. Showing that you understand their wants and needs within a reasonable framework will ensure success.