Return to Office: The Latest Chapter in the Saga

Everyone is working remotely for months… Learning how to be productive in new and different ways. Then return to the office slowly begins…and lasted for a few months (maybe even longer depending on where you live). Then everyone goes back to working remotely again because of Omicron.

Are you wondering when return to office will start up again? And what it will look like? Is it hybrid, where you still have the flexibility to work from home some days? Or is it 100% of the time? Do you still have the same team or, since the last time you saw them in person, are many of them different people? If your experience has been something along these lines, you’re not alone.

At PeopleResults we’ve been working on projects with our clients since the pandemic began in 2020 to help them determine their approach to return to office and how to effectively communicate it to employees. It seems to be a never-ending topic of discussion and debate. It is a universal opportunity for empathy. Each person is coming from a different place and for different reasons.

Here are three best practices we have learned about how return to office impacts your employees:

  • Eliminate the uncertainties where possible. Communicate what you can, when you can, so employees can plan accordingly. If you only know the answer for the next 2 months, state that. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Do not paint everyone with the same brush. Different types of roles have different business requirements. Consider using an approach such as personas to help you determine which requirements apply to which roles. Make decisions based on the business requirements.
  • Factor in the impact on available talent. When assessing the talent pool for highly sought-after skills, you may have to alter your approach to location to source talent. Your organization may prefer everyone to work in person, but specialized skills may only be available to work remotely. Flex when necessary and explain your rationale. When you can’t hire or retain qualified talent, your existing workforce pays the price.

Where your employees work from plays a larger role than ever before. Get deliberate in how you’re messaging on the subject and planning for it in your culture.

Betsy Winkler is a partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @betsywinkler1