Prevent employee culture shock with a return to the office

For the final 12 months, many workers have been working remotely in an try to curb the unfold of COVID-19. Nonetheless, as vaccine efforts ramp up, firms are beginning to announce their return to the office. Amazon says its company workers could possibly be again in the office by fall, whereas different firms like Ford Motor Firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Facebook might deliver their workers again by early summer time. Some firms, resembling Uber and Microsoft, have already opened their doorways to workers.

As these plans come to fruition, we are able to lastly say goodbye to Zoom conferences and reluctantly put our athleisure put on away. However organizations and leaders shouldn’t unexpectedly welcome workers again; they want to give the return to the office some thought. This shift could be a culture shock for workers who’ve turn out to be accustomed to working remotely. It’s essential to rigorously contemplate how to greatest reintroduce workers again to the office, and maybe extra importantly, to one another. In any case, certainly one of the primary advantages of returning to the office is to reignite these extra natural processes which can be exhausting to replicate just about. Listed below are 4 suggestions for serving to to facilitate the return to the office.

Give attention to workforce constructing

In the final 12 months, there have probably been personnel adjustments in groups and departments—some members could have left, others could have joined. As well as to new members, groups have been speaking primarily through electronic mail and teleconferencing. Whereas these instruments have helped us to climate the proverbial remote-work storm, they make it troublesome to construct belief and restrict our capacity to give and perceive complicated info. As a outcome, workforce members will want to turn out to be reacquainted with each other and with their chief as soon as they’re again in the office.

Though we love to hate them, team-building workout routines may also help construct and strengthen relationships, promote cohesion, and create optimistic roles and norms for a way the workforce ought to function shifting ahead. Concepts for workout routines designed to promote these human connections embody: picnicking, a meals or wine tasting, volunteering, or a hands-on expertise like crafting. These actions can encourage long-term team effectiveness and likewise assist us brush up on these social expertise we haven’t utilized in a whereas.

Present help to workers

Research suggests workers look to their organizations and leaders for help at work. That is notably the case when workers should navigate uncharted waters, like the ebbs and flows of working throughout a pandemic. As workers return to work and expertise one more change, organizations may also help ease the transition. Organizations can present extra tangible help to workers. Well being specialists warn the pandemic is way from over. Staff nonetheless have completely different consolation ranges about being round others. Offering workers with sources to assist hold them protected and fight the virus may also help quell issues. Goldman Sachs has instituted temperature checks for workers coming into the office. In a latest Society for Human Resource Management survey, over three-quarters of organizations surveyed mentioned they might implement social distancing, add contactless procedures, and are offering private protecting gear to workers. Additional, organizations ought to present different gear or know-how that workers may want to do their jobs, which can have modified barely due to the pandemic.

Supervisors can provide extra private or emotional help to workers. It’s unlikely that the stressors related with the pandemic will stop as soon as workers return to work. In reality, the return might truly improve the quantity of stress and anxiousness that workers expertise. Supervisors ought to spend time checking in with their workers, exhibiting empathy and compassion for numerous conditions that may come up, and asking whether or not workers want any sources to full their job. It’s essential to ship on that latter level ought to workers request it. Some organizations like Workday and Cigna have taken a extra systematic method and have elevated entry to psychological well being sources (i.e., subscriptions to the Headspace app and behavioral well being teaching) for his or her workers to assist ease stress and anxiousness.

Emphasize flexibility

There are features of distant work that workers have come to take pleasure in over the final 12 months, resembling a lack of commute and taking a catnap at lunchtime. In a recent PwC survey, over half of workers surveyed mentioned they needed to proceed to work remotely at the very least three days per week. There’s no motive why firms can’t retain a few of these features, notably as a result of the want for versatile schedules should still exist (i.e., caring for sick family members, childcare, encouraging social distancing). Firms like Goal and JPMorgan Chase have signaled they aren’t requiring that workers come again full time. Google’s guardian firm not too long ago announced 20% of its workers will work remotely “wherever they work greatest” completely. The choice for distant work will nonetheless exist, ought to workers need to take it.

Prior to COVID-19, many firms had been adamant that distant work decreased productiveness as a result of workers couldn’t be trusted to work with out a watchful eye on them. Nonetheless, the pandemic has demonstrated that workers could be profitable at residence and typically even work longer hours in contrast to working in the office. There’s additionally the added good thing about decreased overhead prices. Analysis suggests when workers are supplied the choice for versatile schedules (i.e., compressed workweeks, distant work, selection in hours), they’re extra glad with their jobs and extra dedicated to the group. Giving workers some say in how they construction their schedules can yield quite a few advantages. Basic Motors’s CEO, Mary Barra, is embracing this notion by trusting workers to work remotely so long as they “work appropriately.”

Make clear expectations

Over the final 12 months, organizational insurance policies and normal working procedures have probably tailored to the evolving COVID-19 state of affairs. They could change extra with the return to the office. It is going to be essential for organizations and leaders to clearly lay out expectations for workers earlier than, throughout, and after the transition again to in-person work. Any future adjustments ought to be communicated totally, transparently, and in a well timed method to hold workers up to velocity. Marriot, who was hit exhausting throughout the pandemic has been a key chief in valuing transparency and honesty in communication.

An often-overlooked part of organizational communication is upward communication—the place workers can voice their ideas and opinions and ask questions of these increased up in the group. It’s essential to create an outlet for workers to voice issues and questions, with out concern of reprimand, to be sure that workers know what is predicted of them and to alert senior leaders to potential points that may intrude with their duties.


Haley Woznyj, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia.