Bringing Work Back to the Office Without Heavy Handing Your People
As the dust settles on a period of work-life where the work-from-home (WFH) movement was accelerated exponentially further than anyone could have ever predicted, getting people back to the office is proving tough, to say the least.
Before the pandemic, the anti-WFH argument was always about productivity. Some concerns were founded, some roles are genuinely collaborative and have been difficult to complete in isolation. Hiring and training new people is very sincerely a nightmare from a distance. But other arguments were a little more rooted in tradition rather than reality.
After a year of working from home, with the Australian economy bouncing back nicely from the initial panic, there is no evidence to suggest that working from home hinders productivity. It may make it tough to hire, it may make it tough to have oversight on staff, but these sound like company problems, rather than employee problems…
What is Warranted Post-Pandemic?
Although some people literally packed up and moved away from the city during the pandemic, many others were itching to get back to the office as soon as they had the green light. Unsurprisingly, we learned that there is a whole spectrum of work environments that people prefer, and the office still remains one of them. Just not for everyone, and not all the time.
Flexibility is an absolute must post-COVID. No business will be able to attract good people without offering some level of flexibility.
Communicate Clearly and Be Realistic
So how do you get people to come back without making them feel as though their freedom has been taken away?
Clear communication and realism.
Much of the panic going around at the moment is a result of the unknown. Keeping up communications should be top of your priorities as vaccination rollouts proceed and you’re thinking about how to progress. Let your employees know that you’re working on a plan, and you’re trying to ensure it respects their flexibility, giving them options, ensuring it’s also what’s best for the company.
Talk to them about bringing work back to the office
While your company has been running through a weird period, for the most part, it’s still kept functioning as usual. That is absolutely not the case for your employees. Their lives have completely changed. You can’t make a plan about what to do with their work-life before understanding just how drastic these shifts were for them.
Some people have relocated. Some will have found a new structure in their life to juggle work and their kids. Others will have found their mental health improved dramatically with the reduction in commute time. Forcing a change could mean losing good people.
Offer a reasonable work-life balance.
Company culture was perhaps the hardest to keep intact during the pandemic. No one will deny that bonding with colleagues in person cannot be replaced online. Requesting some days for this is reasonable.
Try to make a plan with your staff that gives a healthy balance of flexibility while requesting some days together to keep the relationships strong and to ensure learning opportunities between the teams are maximised. Make sure you really communicate what the benefits are for them. If you have mandatory time in the office, those days should look particularly valuable to your staff. If not, you’re going to have a lot of irritable people wondering why they’ve hauled themselves into town.
Compromise with employees/staff.
Trying to bring everyone into line, on the same spot, is going to be like herding cats. Many of those who’ve moved are not going to come back. Some staff who prefer the office are not going to be happy that their colleagues aren’t joining them every day. You will not be able to please everyone. Your best approach will be to speak with each individual and negotiate an arrangement that both sides can happily live with.
Stick to your promises about Work from Home.
Flip-flopping on agreements is going to quickly burn bridges with your staff. You need to be comfortable that once an agreement has been reached, you don’t get to change it, lest you want to welcome the fury of unhappy staff.
This process is probably going to create some movement. If you need help filling roles with the right people to match your new arrangements, the team at Launch can help.