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Return to the Office - Challenge or Opportunity

Return to the Office - Challenge or Opportunity

On the heels of Google's announcement to bring workers back into the office in April, Apple has recently announced their return to work around the same timeframe. They join companies like Meta, Amazon and Microsoft who have already begun their return process and soon, other organizations follow suit.  

With that said, whether companies are imposing a mandatory full time return or a hybrid model, their decisions are being met with resistance, especially from those who have grown used to their perception of the benefits of working from home.

The Cons

Although the CDC has lifted restrictions, a heightened sense of caution remains regarding Covid exposure, especially in more public settings where control over who you’re sharing space with remains a concern. So for many, the safety of spending their days with a smaller circle of family and friends will certainly be missed.

The savings some have realized as a result of lowered daycare costs, decreased gas expenses and thefreedom to attend to personal needs during the day will be a thing of the past as well.

With this said, the loss of these benefits coupled with the stress and anxiety that comes with returning to a highly social environment after two years of relative isolation will take some time to overcome.

Challenge or Opportunity

In response to this, companies are challenged not only with bringing employees back into what is perceived as a less desirable environment, but creating one that meets their evolving needs and keeps them satisfied, engaged and productive.

Some organizations, especially those that are not offering remote work options, may look at this more simply. Leaving it up to employees to either comply or seek remote employment elsewhere, but this is obviously not the preferred outcome and seems a bit short sighted.

This is a moment in time that can either be seen as a challenge or an opportunity to shift how organizations show up for their people, post pandemic. Emerging from these past two years more evolved and ready to meet the challenges of a new decade.

In essence, it’s a call to action for leaders to step up and make the conscious decision to think more holistically about how they manage change and support their teams. With the understanding that Covid has left us all in a very different place from where we started, it will require an approach that goes beyond logistical, reaching more deeply into the needs of the individual.   

A Warm Welcome

For organizations that are looking to re-engage and retain their people during this critical time they must create an environment where compassion is top priority. With this said, it all starts when the employee walks back in the door.

Upon return, welcome them back in a warm and genuine way.  Greet them as you would someone returning after a long time away from home. Make it special and inviting. For many, this is a big step to come back so take those extra steps to help them feel comfortable and appreciated.

This goes without saying, but assure everyone that the safety and health of your workforce is top priority. Diligently following proper protocols and maintaining clean and sanitized work spaces shows them you care.

In addition, managers who start a dialog with their employees and allow them to express how they’re feeling, can make a big difference in the success of the team moving forward.   

4 Steps For Managers:

Although HR may caution you not to blur the lines between the personal and professional, there is a way to consciously connect and support teams without taking on the role of a therapist. Here are a few simple steps to get started:

Step 1: Ask questions and truly listen to your employees. Now is the time to gain insights into how they’ve been doing since they’ve been away and will help you get ahead of any potential performance concerns or morale issues down the road.

Step 2: Provide employees with a journal, guide or workshop that promotes self-care and a proactive approach to managing their health moving forward. This shows your support and reinforces their need to take accountability for their own well-being. It also encourages them to address daily issues and inform you if additional help is needed. 

Step 3: Work with HR and your leadership to establish a playbook that outlines your company’s commitment to supporting your teams and what that looks like. This could include tips on how to respond to concerns or unconventional requests that may come up from a returning employee and additional resources to provide if needed. With guidelines to follow, this helps you increase your skills as a coach and identify when to escalate issues to HR.

Step 4: Seek out support from your leader and ask for help when needed. Remember, you have been through a lot of change as well and managing teams takes energy, so be sure to take care of yourself along the way.

As an employer, there is no magic wand you can wave to ensure everyone is happy at all times.

These are just a few first steps you can take to meet people where they are and develop a culture that more proactively supports the changing needs of your workforce.

The Happy Returns Program offers organizations the opportunity to provide their employees with the Day by Daybook® to support them in their transition back to the office.