It may be stating the obvious but working at your kitchen table is vastly different than going into the office. Employees transitioning back to the office may need some guidance on how that looks and feels. Now is an excellent time to get back to the basics by refreshing how things operate and get people reacquainted with life at the office.
As with much of the pandemic, no one knows how things will play out. The same goes for transitioning from working at home to going back to the office. For that reason, Lisa Pook, Organization Development Director at MRA, answers some basic questions that managers may be asking.
What issues may be problematic when transitioning back to the office?
People have created immensely different patterns while working by themselves. Consider what they wear, the hours they keep, even getting work done in the hammock in the backyard. Leaders need to recognize the change in environment and be respectful of the adjustments employees will need to make.
It’s a good idea to have a refresher on the ground rules. What are the expectations now that people are back in the office? Consider your answers to these questions:
- Is a hybrid schedule offered? Are there certain days and times employees must be together? When (if ever) is it okay to work at home?
- How are you going to communicate with each other?
- What are the new ways of doing things? What are the pre-pandemic ways that have come back?
- How does the team agree to handle disagreements and conflicts?
Do your team’s interactions look different now?
Think about how you will shift to make sure that the goals and purpose of your team are intact and how you will relate to your employees. Take time to refresh your team goals, including sharing your expectations and making sure communication takes priority. Ask questions like, how are people feeling while integrating back to the office. There may be issues, and leaders should be prepared to deal with them on an individual basis.
How will you make your team shine during the transition?
One of the best things a manager can do is to set the stage for a positive experience. Employees may have safety and health concerns about returning to the office or they may have found they simply prefer working remotely. Listening and respecting points of view while setting clear expectations and explaining the reasons for decisions are good communication strategies that are vital in times of transition. Support your team with regular one-on-one meetings in addition to team meetings and be sure to check in on how employees are doing with the changes they’re experiencing.
What happens if it does not go as smoothly as you envisioned?
Don’t worry—you have options. You can get positive results through training or coaching. Which one, you ask? Both training and coaching are there for employees and managers to improve on what they do. Choosing coaching or training depends more on the root cause of the issue.
When is training needed?
Training involves delivering content to gain knowledge and then doing something with it. Does the office transition require employees to learn new technology? Or maybe a manager is leading a hybrid team for the first time and needs help seeing how that looks. Both involve training.
When is coaching a fit?
People should work with a coach when they need more support. Is a leader specifically having trouble with consistent communication? Or maybe engagement strategies need to be developed for employees struggling with transitioning. Coaching can help people figure out what they need to do to get to where they want to be.
As employees continue to come back to the office, successful managers will refresh how things look, communicate their expectations, listen to their employees, and be responsive to their needs. Transitioning may be tricky at times. But looking at how far the world has come over the last year gives us hope that a year from now life will all look much more familiar.