TIPS FOR MANAGING A ROCKY RETURN
For many companies, returning to the office has felt like a rollercoaster of worry, excitement, and uncertainty. Offices may look just as they did in March 2020, but many companies attempting to welcome workers back are finding that the rules of engagement have changed.
For many employees, the sweet freedom of remote work has turned into bitterness at the thought of commuting and conference rooms. Fear of new COVID-19 variants snuffed out the brief period of vaccination-injected optimism earlier this year, as childcare and school disruptions lingered. Despite such resistance and health concerns, some employees have joyfully returned to their desks, excited to reconnect with colleagues, even behind masks.
USE THE OFFICE AS A TOOL
In this period of reawakening, and the fiercest labor market in recent memory, companies should take steps to redefine the purpose of the office as a tool rather than a destination. For example, the office can become a tool to enhance specific collaborative efforts, connections or creativity.
Employees will be able to retain the work-life flexibility that they now crave. Employers will retain and attract productive people who will love their work life.
STAY FLEXIBLE IN THE UNCERTAIN ‘NEXT NORMAL’
Employers should seize the opportunity to modernize their relationship with employees. There is no doubt that the global pandemic accelerated work virtualization. While some employers have embraced remote work as part of future professional arrangements, others have been holding their breath.
Companies will have to consider how best to serve all of their stakeholders with hybrid and remote options, if possible. The impact of COVID has been so widespread and the timing and nature of the end of the virus as we know is so uncertain that it is impossible to know the parameters of such an end state.
Business owners should, instead, think in terms of a “next normal.” Their back-to-work policies should reflect their inability to forecast the intermediate future. Terms and conditions related to work should be temporary, and companies should actively experiment, to learn how to balance the concerns of employees with the need to maintain productivity.
DON’T LEAVE STRUGGLING WORKERS BEHIND
Employers should remember the pandemic is not over. Many employees still need flexibility, autonomy, and control over their work and non-work hours. Workers who used to be fine with regular office hours pre-pandemic are still struggling, as the pandemic continues to affect their availability and the predictability of their work hours.
Employers should understand that many employees who are caregivers will still have disrupted days. Business owners and managers who take their employees’ perspectives and take employees’ whole lives into account will be more likely to receive loyalty, commitment, and trust in the long term.
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS NEED TO GET RIGHT WITH THEIR RETURN-TO-WORK POLICIES?
1. Make sure your policy has legitimacy:
Take a close look at what employees were able to do during the pandemic. Many companies found employees continued to do their work without being in the office. Keep strict in-office policies to a minimum and only for those tasks for which face time is needed.
Employees won’t believe employers who say it is important to be in the office now unless there are clear reasons. Insisting on face time and fixed hours now, without a legitimate reason, will undermine employees’ contribution and commitment.
2. Take a flexible, iterative approach:
Don’t set policies in stone. We have seen employers have to backtrack on policies and respond to employee concerns. Understand there will be variability based on people’s circumstances and on the external situation (e.g., a rise in cases), and communicate this to your employees.
3. If a solution works, share it:
If a manager finds a remote/flex arrangement that works for one person on the team, share it with others. Resist tendencies to keep quiet about “accommodating” people’s requests out of concern for having to meet everyone’s demands.
Sharing information allows employees who didn’t know they could have flexibility, gain it. Transparency can help increase fairness and reduce the burden on many employees who may not have known they could work differently.
DO YOU REALLY NEED TO BE IN THE OFFICE?
Remote work policies such as work-from-anywhere (WFA), which grants workers the flexibility to choose where to work and live, could be a win-win for companies and employees. Beyond improved productivity (under some conditions), WFA might enable companies to hire beyond their local labor markets and reduce real estate and utilities costs.
As companies struggle with workers returning to office, it is important to think through why workers should come back to office. Hybrid models can embrace WFA, with teams collectively determining when to come to the office.
Instead of mandating workers to work from the office a few days every week, teams can decide to co-locate in the office a week, a month, or a few weeks every quarter, and work-from-anywhere for the rest of the time.
Is the rocky return affecting your business?
Strugz, is a business management and public relations firm, with the passion to help our clients build and establish their business. With our help, your rocky return will turn to a smooth return, as our best hand are always there to help you rebuild your company, and boost the morale of your employees. We also give consultations to help you understand the ‘next normal’ after the pandemic period, and how to balance your work-life. Your return shouldn’t be all rocky.
Contact us today:
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