Many employers may see the return to office working as an opportunity to recapture the previous culture of their organisation. However, they are now facing a new way of working from hybrid office and home working to some employees moving to fully remote roles, which brings with it different challenges that can impact morale and cause disruption within your team.
Although there are undoubtedly benefits to being able to bring employees together again in person, there is also an opportunity for companies to adapt and build on their values and culture, as well as improving employee well-being and enhancing team spirit.
If your office has reopened or you’re about to reopen, use this time to reshare your office policy or circulate your new policy if you have adapted it to reflect the new ways of working. This allows your staff to feel prepared when they walk back into the office.
Honesty remains the best policy. Set the tone with your people as to how you would like your company to be run going forward. Whether you want an office presence every day from a portion of your employees or are happy for different departments to work out their own office/homeworking schedule, communicate this to your staff so they feel they can make decisions that feel right for them.
Lead by example
You may want to urge your senior management to have a presence in the office. If your people see a blend of staff from all tiers heading into physical workspaces it may encourage them to venture in themselves. If they feel it is one rule for them and another for management, they may be reluctant to return to the office.
Take into account whether the environment works
If you’re adopting flexible working with staff working both from your premises and from home, consider the layout of your office. Prior to the pandemic, set desks spaces will likely have worked but if you’re moving to a hybrid situation then a hot desk policy may suit the adaptable nature. If staff are on the whole coming in more for meetings, consider break out spaces that allow for teamwork, strategising and the throwing around of ideas.
Consider new team dynamics
There may have been changes affecting the dynamics of your team during the pandemic. For example, new starters who joined the business remotely, missing colleagues if there have been redundancies, role changes that have happened whilst everyone has been working from home, as well as new flexible working arrangements or hybrid working models. Think through the best way for your team(s) to work together and communicate this to them either virtually or in person, ensuring collaboration between new and existing staff.
Be aware of office politics
Old HR issues which have been avoided at home could re-surface as employees venture back into workspaces. For example, working from home may have allowed some individuals to leave office politics behind and they may be concerned about whether previous conflict might be re-established when they return.
Open a dialogue for staff to air any concerns they have about returning to the office, so you are fully aware and can prepare for any issues or stumbling blocks.
Consider your management style
Employees may have become used to working more autonomously, with many thriving under a more relaxed management style during the pandemic. They may not respond well to being managed more closely again. If your staff have been delivering for you while working from home, trust that they will continue to do so. You can have regular check ins, either in person or via video call, to see how they’re performing and check in on their mental health.
That said, new starters who have joined your company while you’ve been operating remotely, or you have recruited since your premises re-opened, may prefer a more hands on approach to get to grips with how working in your office operates.
Gather staff feedback
Teams with higher employee engagement are 22% more profitable, whereas those with low employee engagement have 37% more absenteeism, according to global analytics and advice firm Gallup. Actively asking your staff for their thoughts may lead to them feeling more engaged, which in turn boosts morale and performance, helping you to reach your business goals.
Employee engagement platforms are a great way to do this, as they allow you to gain anonymous feedback and provide you with an insight into how your employees are really feeling. This then gives you a starting point as to whether there are any issues which need to be addressed.