Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
Back in the Office after COVID
Or, how to install a Purell shower in the breakroom
Some people cannot wait for everyone to get back into the office—and into all other places of public life—full-time. And they want everyone else to come back, too.
Some other people cannot stand those people. And many of them would be happy to keep working remotely for the foreseeable future.
Some people want to take baby-steps and slowly return to “normal” life, rather than cannonballing into full-contact humanity.
And some people realize that they don’t have any dependable and/or affordable childcare options, so what they want is irrelevant, because someone needs to stay home with the tiny overlords.
As leaders, we need to understand all of these perspectives are VALID. And we need to take them into account when we are making our post-Covid office policies.
First off, start by finding out where your people are on this. Recognize that a policy that “forces” someone to work in a location that causes them anxiety, or one that doesn’t mesh with the needs of their family, likely will result in that person quitting. So, as you are planning your company’s post-Covid comeback, respect their perspective and what they are dealing with. Ask what they prefer, and ask them what they would need to be ready, willing, and able to be in the physical office, since even remote workers may need to come in for specific events, meetings, to pick up materials, etc.
Second, work to grant every reasonable request. If an employee needs to keep working remotely until in-person school starts for their kids in September, see if you can make that work (sometimes you can; sometimes you can’t—that’s where the “reasonable” part comes in).
Be fair—don’t give a few people special treatment without giving everyone else the same options (when possible), and give special perks to people who go the extra mile. For example, if some of the staff are “holding down the fort” in-person, give them the perk of UberEats gift certificates, or “Donut Fridays,” or extra vacation/personal days, or allow them to bring their (well-behaved, quiet) dog to the office every day, or at least let them move their workspace to the “good” cubicle. Ideally, find out what THEY want, rather than assuming.
Consider hybrid options, such as “2 days in the office, 3 days remote” for people who want it, and implement in a way that balances out people’s needs and the company’s needs. Often, this can be the bridge for working parents, and if scheduled well, can either bring everyone in on the same day for the weekly staff meeting, or can spread out the office population to maintain safe social distancing. Also, these hybrid schedules can be adapted to give both the “fully back” and “fully remote” people what they need, as well.
In addition, many firms are using the “lessons of the Covid-times” to improve morale, retention, team-building, growth, and the bottom-line. If half the staff is working remotely on any given day, your firm may not need that large office. If your client meetings are all handled over Teams or Zoom, maybe you don’t need that expensive Manhattan branch at all. Is now the time to start that new branch office in Maine? If we have 1-2 staffers who want to move there, then with our knowledge of remote work systems, we can give them a full office of support staff from anywhere in the country now. Challenge those old assumptions—we might now have ways to live and work better.
When we think outside the cubicle we inhabited in 2019, we may find a better way to work in 2021.
(Video by The Holderness Family on YouTube.)