Early in the pandemic, companies were forced to realize the show does go on with remote work. In fact, employee productivity was at an all-time high for many white-collar organizations. However, the comfortability of working from home quickly transitioned into blurred boundaries and an inability to “shut it down,” leading to a rise in burnout and a decline in wellbeing. At least for some…
In a recent report published by MetLife, almost 50% of workers in their 20s stated that their work-life balance is better now, while only one-quarter of Baby Boomers say the same. This is a point of concern for managers, team leaders, and organizational heads who perhaps no matter what their return-to-work plan is, will fail to please everyone.
The push-pull between employee and employer can lead to a concerning disconnect. But there are numerous ways organizations, human resources, and managers can help ease tensions and effectively tackle difficult conversations.
As management consultant Liz Kislik writes in the Harvard Business Review, the key to making the return to work as smooth as possible is to address everyone’s concerns— keyword is everyone. It’s important to have a good pulse on your organization and the many individual concerns and beliefs. A popular way to find out is through anonymous surveys. It just might be your highest response rate, yet!
Let’s look at a common concern. Younger workers worry returning to work may put young or elderly members, who they share a home with, at risk. A risk, understandably, not worth taking. If, for example, your company decided to mandate all employees return to the office full-time, this exact concern should be discussed and the precautions your organization has in place to create a safe environment.
Opportunities for collaboration and communication have suffered due to the inability to meet face to face. Zoom fatigue is well-known now, and unless addressed properly, will continue to negatively impact employees. We all became accustomed to turning on our cameras when first working from home. Now, it’s time to prioritize what can be a Slack message, what can be an email, what can be a conference call, and what needs to be face-to-face.
Another major concern when it comes to letting employees work from home is the perceived lack of control over work hours and output. The solution is to give precedence to performance over hours worked. If an employee is underperforming while working from home, perhaps they are unable to perform their best from home and will welcome the chance to return to the office. Or, just as you would pre-pandemic, place them on a performance improvement plan (PIP).For this to work for both employees and managers, there needs to be clear project direction with deadlines.
As workers return to the office, make sure you have a plan for a smooth re-entry. At the heart of this plan lies the concern for employee safety, comfort, and flexibility where possible.
Even with vaccination roll-out, 49% of the responders who participated in the survey conducted by the American Psychological Association were ‘nervous’ about returning to the office. To properly address this concern, develop a comprehensive return to office policy so your employees feel safe coming back to the office.
Some actions and policies you can enforce to ensure health and safety include:
Be transparent with your staff about the policy and measures you have taken so far to ensure the safety and health of your employees.
While the worst is over, it is better to prepare for issues that may arise as workers begin to rejoin and come in contact with each other again.
Some possible concerns you should address include:
Having a contingency plan to tackle these issues will allow you to act quickly, efficiently, and with confidence.
As organizations ask employees to join, there are mixed reactions among workers. Many are reluctant to re-join due to health and safety reasons while others would prefer to continue working from home due to comfort and personal priorities.
In case an employee is reluctant to re-join for any reason, work with HR to see if setting a flexible schedule is possible. Set the priority based on the ‘work’, not the ‘worker’.
A reluctant worker will not be able to perform at their best. It’s best to communicate with transparency while remembering we’re all humans, and setting clear guidelines for what’s appropriate and what’s not.
With calls for a return to the office, there is a bit of uncertainty as well as hope for a quick return to normal. Amidst all this, you can make things easier for your employees by setting clear policy guidelines for making the transition as smooth as possible.