Many companies are asking their employees to return to the office physically after a lengthy period of working from home. Some employees are excited about the return while others dread it.
So what should companies do?
Unfortunately, I’ve heard from colleagues in various industries that the reasoning given for the change in structure is often not clear. “Management wants everyone back;” “We need to fill up our lease space;” “Just because;” are all actual reasons given (or at least, those are the messages received by employees). I’d like to think when management is looking at any change in employee’s schedules, they have valid reasons for it.
As an owner/manager, the first thing to do is understand your motivation. Do you want employees back on site because that’s the way it’s always been? Is it worth making them unhappy for that? If there’s been a lack of innovation or decrease in productivity or increase in attrition, those are valid reasons and should be noted. Most employees will be open to logical, definitive reasons—make sure the message is clear and that all your managers understand so they can convey it.
So, if you have good reason to bring people back, what are you doing to make it easier for them to make this transition? Are you offering flexibility where possible? Are you making sure you’re backing up the reason for bringing them in? In other words, if you’re looking to increase innovation thru building relationships, are you setting it up so people are coming in at the same time? Make sure whatever reason you give for wanting people back in the office can be resolved by your method of doing so.
Regardless of the reasoning and the message, you should understand this is a change and acknowledge that. Make sure your staff understand that you appreciate their flexibility during this time and their help getting through the last few years. If you can accommodate individual requests for flexibility, do it.
If there’s no compelling reason to make any changes, then don’t. Just make it clear that those who want to return are welcome if possible.
Understand your motivations, convey the logic behind them clearly, and be honest with your staff. That’s what most employees want.