While it seems like only yesterday that a fully remote work environment was considered futuristic, the unique pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a transition that has forever disrupted the workforce climate. As the country has started to turn a corner, and seems keen on returning to the former “normal” workforce environments, many organizations are announcing plans to require employees to come back to the office to work in-person at least part-time or a hybrid schedule.
However, employees are hesitant to return back to an in-person work environment. A recent study¹ by LiveCareer shows that while 79% of respondents said their employers plan to return to on-site work eventually, nearly 30% said they would quit their job if not allowed to work remotely.
When planning to transition back to in-office policies, it will be important for executive management to capitalize on the positive aspects perceived by staff of this working environment and create energy and excitement. For example, in a survey conducted by Smartway2², “40% of workers miss the social interaction in the office, while 37% miss spontaneous collaboration and idea-sharing.”
There are a multitude of activities and initiatives that can be leveraged to help make such a transition smoother, especially as the warmer summer months approach. If your company is returning to an in-office policy and you are seeking ways to help make your team excited about the adjustment, read the tips below.
Invest in Employee Skills Training - During the past few years, all of the global unrest related to the public health crisis left little room for professional development. Employees may be feeling a bit stagnant in their daily responsibilities. A great way to reinvigorate your team members, that also should directly benefit the business, is investing in training and tools that enable your staff to learn and grow. Talk with your team members about what new talent they may be hoping to learn or a skillset they could try to hone.
Offer Work-Life Balance and Flexibility - Many individuals who are concerned about returning to the office fear losing the ability to take care of family matters with more ease. During remote work, parents have appreciated greater flexibility to tend to children or other family members, and home owners can be on site for a broken dishwasher replacement. Managers can improve employee satisfaction in their team members by promoting a more flexible working culture that recognizes the demands of personal life. You could be more relaxed about work start and end times and continue offering video calls for widely dispersed colleagues, for instance.
Focus on Revitalizing Comradery - Despite the positive feelings people have toward remote work, as mentioned above, there are still individuals who miss and appreciate the interpersonal connections gained from in-office interactions. The pandemic has caused a great sense of isolation for many, who are left struggling with feelings of detachment. A great way to reinvigorate your team when returning to the office is to focus on team bonding activities, which underscore an excellent benefit of an in-person work policy. The summertime weather allows for many different options, such as a company picnic, team happy hour, or mini golf event. You could even host a team barbecue!
Revamp the Office to Energize and Facilitate Connection - If there is budget and approval to do so, you could work with other colleagues to revamp the physical office space in a way that is more exciting and inviting to your team. Add in more engaging artwork or infuse some greenery throughout the building. You could even establish a designated area to act as a social hub and give dedicated space for employee breaktime bonding. Your staff will be more engaged returning to a work environment that both invigorates and makes them feel comfortable.
Consider Compromises with Employees - Many employees have developed strong opinions about remote work, and some may be vehemently opposed to a completely in-office environment. If team members are still perturbed by the transition announcement despite efforts to excite and engage, it may be helpful to make small concessions and compromises that also serve as incentives. For instance, perhaps employees with a certain tenure can earn a remote day per quarter, or staff who excel can earn a remote day in place of a monetary bonus. Finally, consider offering perks like “Summer Fridays”, which allows employees to either leave the office early on Friday or take the entire day off, as a compromise and additional flexibility.
Major shifts in the office environment can feel daunting when trying to maintain team morale. By enacting the above items to help your team adjust, this will not only make the transition smoother, but likely also instill a sense of appreciation from your staff that their manager is cognizant and caring of their feelings, which can have positive ripple effects.
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