Who would have thought returning to the workplace would be so hard?

Two years ago, I wrote a blog on the significant adjustment to working remotely. It was still early days in the pandemic and the piece provided an optimistic viewpoint on how we were successfully adjusting to this new world of remote work. Now we are faced with the great return to offices; a different return than management anticipated 2 years ago. This is a moment in the history of work when the whole world is in reset mode, something we have not seen since the end of World War II. 

Some people are eager to return to the office. Others are not so inclined to give up the short commute from the bedroom to the dining room table, the reduced expenses, casual dress, fewer interruptions, and better work-life balance all to do the same work they can do at home. 

We’ve changed how we work and Senior Management was forced to get out of the details

 For many years business educators have talked about the importance of empowering people at all levels of organizations. There is nothing new to the mantra of giving people the authority to make decisions regarding the work they are accountable for “if you trust associates, they will be trustworthy.” Two years ago, I noted that in the COVID era senior management needed to get out of the way of employees by necessity. Leaders empowered employees to get on with their work, ensuring employees had the tools and skills necessary to be successful. A return to the workplace needs to support this way of working not undermine employees by taking back this autonomy and authority.

 Demographics will be important considerations, as age and stage in life will impact who wants to return to the office. Younger employees will benefit from social interactions, in-person coaching and escape from the confines of small apartments that the workplace provides. Those with young families may lean towards the flexibility of working from home, as will senior staff who have no need for interaction and can be more productive working remotely. Successful leaders will listen to their people and work with their team members to create the right working conditions balancing the needs of the business with the wishes/needs of employees.

Making the workplace work 

 Senior leaders who offer hybrid work will need to consider how to make the in-office experience worthwhile. Leaders should begin with an assessment, with input from team members, to determine: 

• What work can be completed as well or better when working remotely? 

• What work is best done at the workplace? 

• What value can be created by coming together that cannot be achieved by working remotely?

• How to support working from home and keep people connected?

• How do we develop people who are working remotely?

 When remote work is the norm coming together should incorporate value-adding opportunities to socialize and network. Office time may include events where staff get to know each other and build relationships which will benefit them in their remote work. Ultimately the winners will be the leaders who listen, respond to employee needs and adapt their work environments to accommodate their most valuable resources. 

As the war for talent intensifies, can leaders afford not to listen?

Michael Brush

As a partner with COREinternational since 1997, Michael Brush has worked with many of Canada’s largest companies in structuring to deliver strategy and improve performance. For more information on how COREinternational can help you get the best out of your business, contact Mike at mike@coreinternational.com or call 416-977-2673 ext. 13

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