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4 Tips to Lead a Successful Return to the Office

How to craft thoughtful office reopening plans that balance the needs of the business and team members.
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4 tips to lead a successful return to the office

As the world begins to reopen, many of us are actively thinking about our plans to return to the office. Some team members will be excited to come back and see their colleagues in person after more than a year of remote work, while others may feel uncertain or anxious.

All of this is completely understandable. As leaders, we need to work with our organization to craft thoughtful office reopening plans that balance the needs of the business and team members.

Here are four tips to lead a successful return to the office:

1) Talk to your team members regularly. Throughout 2020, keeping in contact with and supporting your team through the pandemic was important. Checking in, sending wellness-check surveys, asking about mental health, equipment needs and more may have led to the realization that every single team member had a different experience of the pandemic because everyone has different needs and caregiving responsibilities at home.

By surveying team members regularly, you can track changes in accommodation needs and work efficiency and respond in real-time to that data.

2) Take a phased approach. There are many ways to bring teams back to the office successfully—the three-phased approach example offered below is one option:

  • Phase 1: The office opens at 25% capacity, with strict sanitation and social distancing requirements in place.
  • Phase 2: Implement a hybrid work environment, with 50% of team members in the office at one time. This will allow team members to begin coming in to collaborate with health and safety protocols still in place.
  • Phase 3: Fully reopen the office at 100% capacity operating in a hybrid work environment. Team members may work both remotely and in the office. Continue to observe social distancing and strict sanitation requirements, but policies may be more relaxed than in prior phases.

3) Hoteling is great, but there is a lot to consider. We know that most team members want a more flexible, hybrid work environment and converting permanent desks to hoteling stations may be a solution. This option will allow staff members to use a desk for the day, week or month if needed.

However, this can be logistically complicated. Using a remote work management platform, such as Robin, can help navigate the transition to hoteling. Their software allows team members to book desks for the dates they need to be in the office and helps with contact tracing should anyone need to be notified of a positive COVID-19 test in the office.

4) Keep checking in and pivot as needed. Refining a return-to-the-office playbook covering topics such as the phases of the transition, cleaning, safety, navigating the office and using the desk scheduling software is essential. Communicate updates through weekly announcements with a dedicated communication channel, such as Microsoft Teams, for return to the office updates. This channel will provide space for team members to ask questions and build excitement around the office reopening experience.

While the transition to a fully remote workforce in March 2020 was abrupt, we now can thoughtfully plan and execute a reopening plan. Listening to your team, partnering with leaders, taking a phased approach and continually communicating can all help navigate a successful transition.

Michelle Johnson is chief talent and diversity officer at Palomar.

For more information about leading a safe return to the office, refer to the most recent CDC guidelines. 

Friday, October 29, 2021
Agency Operations & Best Practices