Why: I am a manager with an employee who has strictly stayed away but is now coming into the office. Should I do something to get used to them?
A: Good for you for thinking ahead about the transition affecting this employee. Let’s first identify why this person is being brought into office and their general feelings about the change. All of this will affect the kind of conversation you want to have. Employees are being asked to come back after a full-fledged remote situation due to COVID. During the lockdown, many employees welcomed working remotely and became quite comfortable with the new situation. They were happy with the extra personal or work time they received, enjoyed eliminating commuting time and costs, and created new programs for their lives. Others recall the camaraderie of the office and the ability to learn informally from their colleagues, while developing stronger relationships with their peers. Your initial thoughts need to focus on your employee’s desire to either go remote, go hybrid, or go back to the office, as well as the impact any changes will have on their lives. All employees are looking for a meaningful description of what will be the value of returning to the office or, in this case, the benefits to the organization and the individual by joining office-based employees.
You, your business, and your leadership team need to be able to articulate the strategic value of working in an office-based position. Many organizations that were almost entirely office based before COVID designed their work processes to be physically cohesive, with their training, coaching and assignment conversations designed keeping in mind the idea of an office culture was done. They grew to offer employees an informal development plan that often resulted in close proximity. Whether a business has multiple offices or a single office, most leaders take advantage of this informal time, whether it is over coffee, during lunch, or during a meeting, to talk with more junior employees and help them learn more. Provide an opportunity to attend other meetings. development opportunities. Addressing these valuable interactions, and making sure they happen, will be an important part of the conversation about why you are asking an employee to return to the office.
When examining the impact of returning to the office or being invited to the office, be aware of the many changes people have made to their schedules over the past two years. They tend to care for relatives early in the morning, have developed an exercise routine, or may have added pets to the family. You might not care about it at all – but they do, and if you’re not sympathetic to these changes, they’ll find an employer who is.
Organizations provide many ways to meet the diverse needs of the employees. For example, some businesses offer subsidized transit, parking, or some sort of incentive that can make the transition from remote to in-person a little easier. Major organizations in cities (New York for example) have early releases on Fridays in the summer. All these are designed to provide better work-life balance to the employees. It’s important to stay connected with more positive influences on your employees and to make the transition a success while retaining employees.
It will be important to help your employee set up personal time with other employees as soon as you return to the office. Employees will not respond well to being asked to come into the office only to have web-based meetings throughout the day with other people in other locations without the ability to work with their team in the office. If this person is meeting people face-to-face for the first time, arrange an introduction event. Allow them to spend 30 minutes to an hour chatting with their coworkers to understand who they are, but also in person. It may not be an opportunity to be all together, but developing and strengthening those relationships will only help with continued efforts at employee retention. Creating or recreating a welcoming atmosphere with a private space in addition to shared space, coffee, and perhaps additional amenities will go a long way.
Understanding the impact of commuting to the office (whether related to day-care, animals, travel, or transit) is important to you as a manager. Recognize and empathize with changes and changes. This doesn’t mean you need to change what the employee demands, but it does demand a level of empathy that is required for every transition. Make sure you recognize that this is a change and that the employee making the adjustment is appreciated. As a manager or leader, you can take a command-and-control style, such as “Okay, of course you need to report at work.” This type of tone is the type that leads employees to leave. Being compassionate and understanding the challenges that come with change is the key to retaining your staff.
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