Governments across many jurisdictions have released pandemic health restrictions, including the wearing of masks. And, many companies, are also making plans for a return to the office. However, leaders should not expect an immediate return to the same old workstations, ping-pong tables and water coolers. Case in point, when a CEO of an organization said recently, that there would a “a strong incentive” to demote employees who chose not return to the office, the backlash was swift.
Employees across every industry has cited concerns about safety, including a reduction in their productivity with having to commute again, among others. The best way to the handle the return to the office is through engagement between companies and their employees. And, while, there will be employees clamouring to return to the office others, will be seeking a slow return and/or hybrid approach. Business leaders, therefore, would be wise to consult with their employees and not use the hammer to force them back to the office. There is a reason why the ‘great resignation’ took several companies by surprise, and — why so many employees feel differently about the future of work, compared to some business leaders.
In her blog for the online publication Talent Culture, Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium Dawn Mitchell, lays out some advice that employers can use to achieve their goals of a return to the office for employees. It reads, in part:
Listening to Employees
“Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.
Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.
Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs
While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.
Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.
Looking to the Future
Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone”.
Bottomline: Creating a plan to return to the office is not that hard. Where it can go awry is when leaders decide to not engage their employees in the plan. And, a return to the office plan should not imply that remote or hybrid workers don’t do real work. If you infuse, your plan with thoughtfulness and a commitment to minimizing inequities., you are likely to get buy-in from most, if not all of your employees.
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