You’re not alone if you’re worried about how your team will handle the move back tothe office to whatever sort of in-person work your company plans. Most employees, you’ve already seen, don’t want to go back to whatever normal looked like before the outbreak.
According to a recent Harvard Business School survey of 1,500 employees, 81 percent of them either don’t want to come back to the office or prefer a hybrid work paradigm. Of them, 27 percent want to work from home full-time, while 61 percent want to work from home two to three days a week. Only 18 percent want to return to full-time in-person work.
While those percentages may vary depending on your team, it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of your employees will be disappointed when your company reveals its plans for a return to work.
So, how can you keep your staff motivated and engaged during a corporate transition as a leader? Of course, part of that will be dictated by factors outside your control, such as the level of flexibility provided by your employer.
Employees will be less resistant to the move back to the office if they have greater control over their work structure. Setting aside the things you can’t control, there are a few things you can do to make the transition to whatever your company’s version of “next” looks like easier for everyone.
1. Be open without appearing to be a victim
When you can’t provide employees with the level of flexibility they expect, listen to their concerns and disappointments with empathy. Make as much information regarding the organization’s logic for the policies in place as possible.
Never say something like, “I’m sorry, but it’s out of my control,” as this shows weakness and defensiveness, which will likely irritate them even more. Early on, bring up any issues you have and convey them regularly.
People will assume you know more about new regulations and protocols than you do, and you may be asked questions for which you have no satisfactory answer. Learning to respond honestly will be crucial to demonstrating excellent leadership.
Inform them ahead of time about any impending changes you learn about, and let them know what you’re doing to keep them informed. You may help ensure that others’ expectations don’t become roadblocks in an already difficult shift by successfully managing their expectations.
There will almost certainly be a lot to keep staff up to date on when they return to work. In reaction to lost revenue, new office regulations regarding health and hygiene may have been created, new programs may have been implemented, and bonuses and incentives may have been updated.
Each and every returning employee should be given documentation on any office changes, and if there are a lot, you might want to prepare a packet and keep it on each person’s desk. Even if they are receiving digital pay statements, it is a good idea to include a YTD paystub in the package. YTD stands for year to date. This will help the individual to reorient themselves to the new normal and assess their personal progress so far this year and make it easier for them to create a pay stub.
3. Involve the team in balancing the requirements of individuals and the collective.
If you have some control over how WFH regulations are implemented on your team, you’ll need to figure out how to apply those principles to specific situations without being unjust to others. After being apart for so long, it’s critical to reestablish cohesion, so you don’t want to start with some people feeling resentful of the flexibility you provide others but not them.
Engage your staff in determining how to best use the discretion you’ve been given wherever possible. Allow each member to voice their requirements and preferences, and then charge the team with balancing them within the parameters set. Single parents, for example, may have different flexibility requirements than those caring for aging parents. When it is their decision to do so, people will be more flexible, even sacrificing, for the sake of the team.
Encourage the team to develop new work practices that everyone follows for both where and when work is done. Ensure that all meetings, for example, have video links so that individuals working from home can participate equally.
Set specific work hours, such as 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, during which everyone must be available online, as well as weekend boundaries during which everyone is expected to be offline. If you’re having a large meeting, have everyone attend from their computer, whether they’re at home or at work, so no one feels left out.
People will be significantly more dedicated to the solutions they help build, and the creativity they demonstrate may energize and generate excitement for the transition, alleviating whatever anxiety they may be feeling.
4. Allow people to grieve in their own time.
Regardless of the level of flexibility you provide, the transfer from WFH may signify more than just a loss of control over their time for individuals. Some folks were bereaved by Covid-19 but never had the opportunity to say their final goodbyes. Others renewed their relationships with their spouses and reached new levels of intimacy with their children.
Others have created personal routines that will be interrupted as a result of the changes. Allow individuals to grieve the loss of whatever this past season has meant for them, no matter how good “next” may be. Some people may appear to be unusually silent. Others are a little terse.
Some people may become teary-eyed when a coworker recalls their family. If you give folks the opportunity to let go of the last 18 months, they’ll be more able to embrace the new normal you’re encouraging them to help build.
5. Bring all of the pandemic stories together in one place.
While the pandemic’s horrors cannot be overstated, there were some unexpected benefits and lessons for many. As dinner tables functioned as classrooms and workplaces, there were WFH blunders with video cameras and kitchen pandemonium.
Unexpected revelations of personal resilience and inventiveness, as well as revelations of personal limitations, necessitated the development of self-compassion. One of the organizations with which I work is throwing a “return-to-next” reentry party, at which each team member will build a digital scrapbook of their favorite pandemic experiences.
You can assist your team see each other in a new perspective by sharing aspects of the past 18 months that they encountered while separated. We will not be the same people we were 18 months ago. Creating a unique experience to uncover who you each became will renew your team’s relationships while reinvigorating your excitement for the future.
6. Be a source of happiness.
Creating a sense of lightheartedness for your team is one of the finest methods to alleviate any angst they may be experiencing. There are certain aspects of working life that individuals miss: routines that your team liked, festivities that were halted, and opportunities to go off camera and feel less isolated.
According to a PwC report from June 2020, 50% of employees believe that teamwork and relationship building are better in person. Assist folks in seeing how you’ll be able to reestablish those things once everyone has returned. Humor, when utilized properly, may be very beneficial in bringing delight to others.
Share your own tales of WFH mayhem to encourage others to do the same. This is an especially opportune opportunity for you, as the team’s leader, to demonstrate servanthood by doing all you can to personally ease the transition for team members who may find it tough. Demonstrating true support today will strengthen the team’s loyalty and commitment to one another, as well as to your performance goals for the year. This way you mill some high income skills as a team leader.
If the move to WFH wasn’t difficult enough, returning to the office could be even more challenging. Our minds will be searching for familiar routines to “return” to, but they will not exist. Our brains will have to devote extra energy to adjust on the go if this happens.
This transition will encourage us all to bring our best selves back to work and demonstrate how the pandemic has strengthened us. Knowing this, your job as the team’s leader is critical in assisting people in navigating this with optimism, kindness, and patience in order to ensure that those are the versions that come up.
And if you are looking for an office for your employees to return to, we can help! Our local reps know the market, know the landlords and know who takes care of their buildings. Contact us if we can help! No obligation.