This quote from a recent Global CEO Forum sponsored by Fortune sums up my many conversations with our clients.
“We are definitely going to be hybrid. We think that is really the wave of the future. It’s not going to be a free for all. It’s going to be a structured, hybrid, workplace where we are going to try and take all the good things we learned during the pandemic, and couple that with all the great things we knew with what we used to call normal.”Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco
Why do executives want to return to the office? Whether spoken outright or not, the responses I hear fall into five categories:
- We want people “in the room” for collaboration and mentoring opportunities.
- It’s easier to onboard new hires and transition them quicker into our organization.
- We want to leverage our business strengths, which are built on relationships.
- We spend and have spent a lot of money on our beautiful workspace.
- It’s harder leading others in a remote environment.
We have and continue to deal with the pandemic that leaves us in a wake of loss and accelerated change. We need to appreciate that all of us tolerate and adjust to loss and change differently. Staging reentry and working to accommodate any unknown issues will help organizations attract and retain coveted talent. Below are some considerations as you continue to evolve how your team works whether you return to a traditional office or not:
- Leaders need the skill sets to manage in a remote environment. Determine what training you will offer to tool your leaders and employees.
- Adjust or create policies and communicate expectations accordingly. This will require employee manual updates around your hybrid environment and anything else you intend to implement such as a vaccine policy. The claims for harassment and bullying have increased in the remote environment especially those based on gender and age. We recommend adding appropriate language or reinforcing/refreshing the team’s compliance to your harassment and discrimination prevention policy.
- Ensure regular, thoughtful communication with your team throughout the entire process. A check-in with each employee immediately following the return to office announcement is highly recommended. Make sure that leaders have a script or understand how to field concerns and determine potential accommodations. Maybe their role is to triage issues and send them to a pre-defined leader? If so, work together with the employee’s supervisor to make sure that the solution is collaborative and successful. Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate with leaders what authority they have to make accommodations.
If you are contemplating a hybrid model, make sure to consider these design questions:
- How will you name and brand your hybrid model?
- What return to office plan makes sense? Is it being onsite during fixed hours or days, for meetings, or activities?
- Will there be required times for onsite work and flexibility on the remaining days or a set schedule for everyone?
- Do areas of your business require different solutions?
- If employees are working behind closed office doors or solo in cubicles, is that any different or better than being remote? What are the expectations while onsite?
- What is the cadence of bringing the team back and what is the date for full implementation? Is it easier on your team to stage a slow reentry?
- For those who are eager to be onsite, can they have an accelerated cadence?
- What policies and processes need to be updated to ensure a smooth execution?
I confess that a year and a half later, I’m still obsessed with my yoga pants and have vowed to wear my fashionable sneakers over painful pumps to business meetings. Yes, even with a dress. What norms will you accept or not accept moving forward? Bottom line, think through all the details to support a less stressful transition for your team.
Please reach out to Compass at info@WeAreCompass.com if you need strategic and tactical support regarding your return to office program.