Going Back to the Office? 7 Things to Keep in Mind

The COVID-19 pandemic played a role in making remote work a kind of new normal, but while millions of people are still working from home, a growing majority of businesses are interested in returning to the office. 

For some, it’s an effort to promote teambuilding and reinforce the company culture. For others, it’s a move for greater collaborative and productive potential.

Whatever the case, if you’re going to bring your team back to the office, there are some important things you should keep in mind.

Important Considerations for Going Back to the Office

These are some of the most important things to keep in mind when going back to the office with your team.

  1.       Physical security. If you want your employees to feel safe, and if you want to protect your physical space, you need to make accommodations for physical security. Cameras, safeguards against physical threats, and check-ins can make everyone feel safer. You should also be mindful of threats like fires; with an adequate fire suppression system in place, you can mitigate or halt most fires in their tracks. And with modular fire suppression systems, you’ll have tremendous flexibility in how and where you install the components you need.
  2.       Employee preferences. Not all of your employees are going to be equally enthusiastic about returning to the office. Some are certainly going to appreciate the traditional environment, but others will miss their former remote work accommodations. Arguably the best way to approach this is to make accommodations where you can and find ways to make the office environment appealing to everyone.
  3.       The talent pool. One of the greatest advantages of working remotely is that you have access to a broader talent pool. But if you’re going back to the office, you’ll have a few important decisions to make. Do you allow your remote employees to continue working remotely if they live far away? Are you open to hiring similar remote employees in the near future? Are you willing to compensate employees for moving to the area so they can commute to the office like everyone else?
  4.       Expenses and value. You already know that maintaining a physical office is expensive. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already baked this into your calculations. Still, it’s important to remember this expense and make sure you continue getting enough value out of the physical office to justify it. Keep a close eye on productivity rates and employee morale, and be willing to make adjustments if you stop seeing a surplus of measurable value from this type of arrangement.
  5.       Realistic expectations. You and the other leaders in your organization need to set realistic expectations about how this transition is going to go. If your employees have grown accustomed to working from home for a period of months to years, the transition is naturally going to be disjointed and difficult. Hopefully, this is just a temporary growing pain. But during those first few months, you should expect some difficulties and inefficiencies.
  6.       The new routine. Coming back to the office after a prolonged time away means you’ll have the opportunity to establish a new routine, and in some ways, a totally new culture. The habits and practices you start with are going to play a massive role in how your long-term habits and practices develop. Accordingly, you should lead with your best foot forward, firmly cementing the priorities that are most important to you; as an example, you probably don’t want to lead each day with an hour-long, bloated daily huddle meeting.
  7.       The adjustment period. Everyone needs time to adjust, so if you want to acclimate effectively, you should consider a gradual or phased approach. For example, you can allow employees to work from home on certain days of the week, or you can allow flexibility in hours to give employees more autonomy in how they work.

Key Tips for Success

These simple tips can maximize your chances of success:

  •       Remain as flexible as possible. Among people who work remotely, 90 percent don’t want to go back to the office. This move is going to be seen as a net detriment to them, at least initially. As a gesture of good faith, and as a way to give employees more control, offer as much flexibility as you can.
  •       Make the office a reward, not a punishment. Make employees want to be in the office. It shouldn’t be a chore to commute here; simple changes to the environment and your daily practices can make the environment much more rewarding.
  •       See your employees as individuals. Everyone works differently. Everyone has different feelings about physical offices. So while it’s valuable to attempt to build a cohesive culture, you also need to see and recognize your employees as unique individuals.

Remote work environments have been praised for their many benefits, but they’re not right for every business or every individual. Going back to the office can be a valuable move, as long as you’re prepared for the nuances of this transition.

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