In the post-pandemic era, how do organisations bring team members back together in office after working remotely for the past two years?
While some employees may feel enthused to return back to the office, most employees still prefer to work from home all the time if there is the option to do so.
Either way, organisations have realised that hybrid work arrangements, where employees work remotely for X number of days and the remainder of the week in office, is here to stay. Hybrid work has increased to 49% in June 2022, up from 43% in February 2022. With hybrid work arrangements likely to be a permanent fixture in the workplace, how can organisations better prepare employees for the transition back into office?
Understand employees’ needs and pain points
To start, organisations can conduct employee surveys to assess employees’ sentiments on returning back to office. Introducing anonymous communication platforms can also allow employees to voice out their concerns about returning back to office. Gathering these data can help HR and business leaders to understand the concerns that new and existing employees may have when coming back to office, and introduce tools, processes and communication channels to support employees’ transition back to office.
Allow time for adjustments and review policies periodically
During the pandemic when employees were working remotely, they may have already established their own work and personal routine. Likewise for new employees who were onboarded during the lockdown, they may not be used to the rigor of returning back to office. Give employees time to adjust to the hybrid work arrangement and coming back to the office. Check in with employees from time to time on the transition and review existing work arrangements and tools periodically to ensure that it supports employees’ needs.
Returning back to office could provide opportunities for organisations to do things differently. This may mean introducing incentives or leveraging strategic tools to incentivise employees to return back to the office, for example, free lunches once a week or revamped work spaces. Likewise, organisations can also shift away from the traditional 9 to 5 work hours and adopt a flexible work policy to help employees manage their professional and personal responsibilities.
Ensure a well-communicated plan
Regardless of the decision the organisation takes, the approach to get employees to return back to the office may not resonate well with everyone. Nonetheless, it is critical to communicate it clearly and effectively to all employees involved. Change is always uncertain for people, but if employees understand the change and how it impacts them, they are more likely to accept what’s happening.
Foster a culture of support
When employees return back to work, it is important to foster a culture of support. This is particularly important for new employees, where it may be their first time working physically together with their co-workers. Introduce helplines, collaborative tools or informal get-togethers to help employees get used to face-to-face contact again. Ensure that managers check in regularly with their team members to understand any pain points or additional support that they require. Business leaders can also consider introducing team bonding activities to help build up the team’s morale and engagement levels.
Returning back to the office and adjusting back to the previous office routine is no easy feat for employees and organisations. Each employee is bound to have their own challenges when returning back to the office. The onus then falls onto the organisation to support employees on this transition. Focus on understanding employees’ needs and introduce tools and a culture of support to help employees effectively navigate the nuances of hybrid and remote work strategies.