Return to work: Destroy or build commitment

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go!
At home with snacks and comfy slacks Hi ho, Hi ho!
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go!
Except not today, we’d rather stay, Hi ho, Hi ho!

Many organizations are hungry to get people back to the office with fears that innovation and collaboration are declining. They’ve got a challenge ahead as shown by these recent stats shared by Amazon Business:

  • Just 12% of respondents said they wanted to work entirely from the office
  • 50% want to continue working mostly or completing from home
  • 43% said they will look for a new job if mandated to return full-time

And here’s the kicker…55% said they were less likely to sign with a new employer if full-time presence in the office was required. That leaves employers who want to see their teams in person with a real quandary – if you force them back they may leave, and your prospects for replacing them are pretty dim.

recent study indicated that while communication (email) was way up during the pandemic, it tended to be greater within existing groups. That’s no surprise. Communication flows best along existing lines of trust. However, that reinforces silos as well. Innovation and customer service require work across groups. Building trust bridges is best enabled by getting together in person.

What’s an employer to do?
 
The work environment affects performance. If it’s not working for people, they will not achieve high performance. In the domains of leadership and change we also know that involving people in decisions is an important lever for encouraging acceptance. It fosters a sense of control. When working on a strategy for returning to the office, engage your employees in dialogue. Technology gives us many ways to do that.
 
Secondly, return to the concept of WIIFM. Appeal to self-interest. If leaders want people to be effective back at the office, they need the office experience to be more appealing than working at home. Consider these options:

  1. Have the team agree upon measures that increase a sense of safety (use of masks, operating in close quarters).
  2. Set core hours that avoid traffic (come late, leave later or vice versa).
  3. Schedule time to just talk in groups, in person at the office – help them reconnect with peers in a way that can’t be recreated through Teams or Zoom.
  4. Make the workplace physically appealing: Chairs, desks, and personalization
  5. Bring snacks! Nothing draws in more people than free food (mmmmm donuts)

The return to work is a complicated shift rendering a different experience for every individual. Increase your chances of making it successful: Give your people a voice.

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper