As Covid restrictions subside and we collectively creep back to “normal”, many organizations are working to transition back to in-person work. Regardless of individual preference, returning to the office is one of countless changes that employees have faced in the past few years. People are tired. Change is hard. And employees need support.
Although, despite these challenges, our workforce has proved to be adaptable and resilient in the face of frequent change. As leaders, it is your job to make these changes as smooth and mutually beneficial as possible. From an organizational change management perspective, here are three tips to ensure a successful transition.
Offer flexible return to work plans
People tend to buy-in to workplace changes when they have more control over how and when those changes come to fruition. Thus, giving employees some flexibility and agency in how they return to the office can ease anxieties, boost commitment to change, and improve communication between employees and employers. Make an effort to understand the work-life needs of your workforce and allow individuals to choose how they can best navigate this transition. No one-size-fits-all approach can optimally support the range of employee needs for managing personal well-being, home responsibilities, and health concerns.
Invest in team alignment
Between practicing social distancing and working remotely, our teams have become disconnected from each other and from the guiding mission of their organization. As such, it is critically important to use this transition as an opportunity to revisit communication strategies, reset goals, and reconnect to a sense of purpose. For starters, remind your employees of how their combined efforts meaningfully contribute to the broader goals of the organization. Address that the way in which they accomplish these goals may be changing (again), but their value to the company is stable and recognized. Additionally, remember that employees may have mixed emotions about returning to the office. Let them know that any way they may be feeling about the transition is entirely valid. Leaders should open a dialogue through which return-to-work hopes and fears can be discussed and ensure that all voices have the space to be heard.
The importance of reconnecting team members and re-establishing the “why” behind the work cannot be overstated. To best take advantage of this opportunity, consider physically bringing your teams together for a team alignment session. For a sense of what these session(s) may consist of, check out the sample agenda attached below! By engaging in authentic discussions about team strengths and developmental areas, you can effectively rebuild a sense of community and trust within your team.
Burnout from the seemingly endless change and uncertainty as of late is widespread and debilitating. When it comes to mental well-being, this is not the same workforce that transitioned to remote work over two years ago. Although the infection and vaccination rates have improved, the exhaustion, grief, and anxiety brought on by the pandemic has not entirely dissipated. Thus, efforts dedicated to addressing mental health at work and designing wellness programs should be at the forefront of our organizational communication and initiatives. We simply cannot expect productivity and performance to return to pre-pandemic standards until the mental and emotional well-being of our workforce recovers from this unparalleled disruption. Prepare for this to take time, attention, resources, and a whole lot of empathy. For tips on how to prioritize your own self-care, visit one of our past personal well-being blogs.
Returning to the office is an opportunity to re-invigorate your staff and show them how much you care. Keep in mind, however, that this transition could be challenging and even undesirable for some. To make the most of your return-to-work, be sure to prioritize flexibility, team alignment, and employee well-being. If you’d like to learn more about team alignment strategies, or explore our alignment session options, please contact us here!