Over a year into the pandemic, we’re facing a new challenge: How to return to the workplace.
We made so many quick pivots in the past year that you’d think the idea of getting back into the workplace would be nothing but exciting. But, in our chats with clients and even among our leadership team, there’s a real sense of, “How in the heck do we do this?!” We all got good at the abnormal. Now “normal” feels weird.
Like everything else we’ve faced this year, there is no blueprint for returning to the workplace. No one has all the right answers, so don’t be dismayed if you and your team are feeling uncertain about how to do it. We just want to share some of our insights and ideas in the hopes they’ll get your team moving in direction you feel good about.
But, first, let’s start with some stats that might surprise you:
A Society for Human Resource Management survey (February 2021) found that:
- 52% of employed American workers surveyed said they would choose to work from home permanently if given the option.
- 28% don’t plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it costs them their jobs.
A Flexjobs survey of 4,000 U.S. workers found that:
- 65% said that post-pandemic, they want to become full-time remote employees.
- An additional 31% of those surveyed would prefer a hybrid work arrangement with a blend of in-person and remote work.
This is all on top of what a shifting generational workforce has been advocating for years.
Now, not all companies can operate with 100% of the workforce working remotely, but it’s probably safe to assume that “the new normal” will look very different than what we once knew. Remote and flex work are here to stay in some form, and the more flexible and innovative the organization, the more competitive it will be in attracting talent and clients (they dig that Zoom option, too).
With all that in mind, let’s consider 3 potential pitfalls to reopening:
1. Making assumptions.
It’s natural to assume that everyone in your organization feels like you do about returning to in-person work, but that’s not the case. Everyone has different reservations about leaving home, about having a commute again, about working in close proximity to people from other households, about “going back” to the old days in general. We urge you not to make decisions about the future based on your personal feelings alone.
Instead, designate a few key leaders in your company to consider possible alternatives, and survey employees regarding their desired plans for moving forward. Allow them to share freely. Take their advice where you can, and plan for a future they want to be a part of.
2. Abandoning ingenuity
Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that ingenuity disappear?
This past year, we personally have experienced breakthroughs in business processes, new tech solutions, expanded market reach, improved internal processes, and more. Things like:
- Remote interviewing, onboarding, and management, including recruiting for key positions in other regions of the country.
- Video calling for quick huddles, internal meetings, and meetings with prospects and clients.
- Expanded digital marketing and remote lead qualifying techniques.
- Expanded market reach, particularly through our weekly webinars.
- Managing and auditing our clients’ data, loaded securely on our portal, without the need for travel to the client site.
That’s not an exhaustive list by any measure, and all were implemented somewhat “on the fly” as we responded to pandemic shutdowns. Still, with the future as uncertain as ever, we’ll need a can-do attitude going forward, and so will you.
3. Playing favorites with your in-person vs. remote or hybrid staff.
With your HR team, discuss ways to create a truly inclusive environment that provides parity and consistency in the way you recruit, onboard, develop, and communicate with team members – regardless of where they work. No one working arrangement is better than the other provided everyone is contributing what’s expected of them. Build morale in the virtual workspace and seek to motivate those working from home the same way you do with those who come to the office.
The future is wide open with possibilities. As we look to reopen our workspaces, let’s not forget to bring with us the lessons we learned this year. It wasn’t all bad news!