As we mercifully arrive in 2021 after one of the most bizarre years in living memory, HR professionals around the country are beginning to ask themselves – how do we make people want to come back to the office?
In this post we’re covering the key things you need to consider when your organisation is ready to bring people back to the office, including the messaging and way it needs to be handled, as there is no one size fits all approach.
For some, the office is now a foreign land, with the sights, sounds, smells and impromptu hallway conversations now a distant memory, abandoned in March 2020 and seemingly never to return. Introverts have loved 2020.
For others, the office has been a part-time reprieve from working from home since mid-year, with many businesses allowing employees in a few days a week, with the caveat of strict rules on numbers allowed. Extroverts have hated 2020.
2021 will more than likely herald the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, but due to life having changed immeasurably, it will not be a simple case of demanding a full-scale return to the office with staff coming in five days a week like in pre-COVID times. However, employers are still keen to get employees back to the office in some way or another, as evidenced by the fact that 10 major employers in Melbourne have vowed to return 70 percent of their workforce to their CBD offices.
Leaders and HR professionals are going to need to handle this transition sensitively. Some employees will have increased their productivity and happiness whilst working at home (and will probably show more trepidation about returning), whereas others (most likely the extroverts) will be desperate to return. Therefore, how the return is presented needs to be tailored to appeal to different groups of people and their needs.
Nurturing office culture and making it appealing to staff again is key.
However it would be naive to expect the previous culture of the office to magically appear again, especially as some people are still going to be distributed and working remotely. A blended approach to organisational culture that is inclusive for all workers will be necessary, which can be achieved by making use of now second-nature things such as video calls, online workshop boards and messaging services.
Likewise, the all-important social bonds and connections of the office will need to be nurtured and strengthened once more, as it is something that won’t happen overnight, and something that distributed employees will potentially miss out on. Below are a few ideas to get this happening.
Tips to nurture social connection in hybrid teams:
Engagement between employees and employers will help shape and determine how the above is handled, with HR professionals becoming the main conduit for both the messaging and execution. As such, having the right feedback tools and processes in place will ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and that missteps and and mistakes are avoided or nipped in the bud early.
One final point to touch on is the group of people that have been completely virtually onboarded over the past year, without any of the norms associated with the onboarding process such as coffee dates, walkthroughs of the office and social events.
An important question to consider for this cohort is if they will need to be “re-boarded” for your company, as we have all learnt that endless Zoom calls cannot replicate the natural feeling of being a part of a company that face-to-face contact with your fellow employees gives.
Having different employee experience workflows and messaging, such as a re-boarding workflow, is a great way get these employees up to speed with office life, and to cement that sense of properly feeling part of the team.
As you can see, getting people back to the office takes more than a hit and hope approach, and the different personality types, the rebuilding of office culture, and introducing the concept of re-boarding are all going to take planning, patience and commitment. Once these are kick-started, you can push the ideas in any direction you like.
If you think that increased feedback and engagement, as well as flexible and dynamic workflows will help with your transition back to the office, get in touch with our team to see these in action.