If you are a manager, you might be feeling the stress of re-integrating your team back to the office from the work-from-home model that we have been used to for the past 18 months. The working world has changed, and it is essential to note what it will take to transition through this next phase of the pandemic.
So, you might ask yourself, what will it take to re-engage the team and keep them motivated during this transition? What will my success be measured on? Many of the obstacles or challenges that you will face will not necessarily be within your control. That is where critical human-led factors will lead a sustainable process with wellness at its core.
We work with clients every day to overcome these obstacles in companies and understand that it requires a multi-faceted approach. Although every company will have its unique approach and its own distinct corporate culture, these following 5 factors are relatable throughout any industry.
The people on your team have gone through a lot in the last 18 months, and the adjustment to working from home has been challenging. The transition back will look different for different people. It is most important to lead with empathy, support, and understanding. Take the time to enhance employee listening and develop a back-to-work strategy based on individual needs and challenges. Some people will require flexibility in scheduling due to childcare needs. Others may need a hybrid work accommodation if commuting on public transit.
Encourage weekly touchpoints where team members can spend time together, whether having lunch or enjoying refreshments or a small meditation session. Promoting gentle bonding between staff members will help to strengthen working relationships and offer immediate support during this transition. It is most likely that staff members see each other again for the first time and will need time to settle into each other.
Integrate mental health and wellness services and programs into day-to-day routines for staff. You might find that some people would benefit from workshops on reducing stress or anxiety. Others would spend lunch participating in these if they were available. Maybe have an expert in mindfulness and wellness come in to share techniques and tips. Prioritizing wellness in the office will help to support employee’s overall health, leading to company success.
Working with people and getting work done through others is not an easy feat, let alone transitioning teams into post-pandemic working from home back to in-person office work. It is safe to say that there will be a learning curve for managers. Be proactive, team up with Human Resources and other managers to devise strategies for success that make sense to your office culture.
Start setting up check-in meetings with your team to inquire about their challenges and needs. Planning and getting in front of any potential issues will allow for problem-solving and reduce surprises along the way.
Attending workshops or seminars on empathy training can be a great way to enhance managerial skills and support your professional process of leading a team. Modeling your commitment to the well-being of your team will also increase trust and loyalty in your group. At one of our big webinars that we prepared for one of the large Canadian banks the executives who were present agreed adamantly and passionately about the importance of self care for their teams – and it was humbling to see that many also admitted being stuck and at a loss for where to even start or what to even do.
Embrace the new reality
It is essential to understand that our post-pandemic work will not look the same as before. So, we all need to suspend our business-as-usual approach to work and instead replace it with a more holistic approach. Placing the health and wellness of staff at its core. While working from home, we have become accustomed to many new habits – some not so good. For example, with less commuting and less travel time allotted to and from meeting rooms, we have been forced to drink out of more “fire hoses” than before – often translating to more, not less, work. The senior manager will need to ask themselves and their peers what the expectations will now be heading into this new back to in-person reality at the office(where long commutes, shuffling to meeting rooms, standing in much-needed coffee and lunch lineups, etc have all returned)
Consider taking an audit of what deadlines are being planned for in the office and offer some buffers accordingly. This will help you and your staff navigate the transition without having additional stressors on everyone in the office. During the pandemic, new up, and comers at work may have emerged – the technically savvy and others who deftly manage the remote work dynamic in front of cameras effortlessly like naturals. In contrast, others may have languished or just grown discouraged and frustrated. Employees who were on a successful path pre-pandemic might have found a newfound appreciation for working from home – or for a new career altogether even. We see this every day! And something like this can send a whole cascade of changes down the “ranks” as many managers know all too well.. Coming back to in-person will add a twist to what many have come to expect and who we’ve come to depend on during our 18 months working remotely. Consider these things when planning out your roadmaps for transitioning your teams and cohorts back into work.
Helpful ideas for what’s worked and hasn’t worked for others exist. You just need to know where to look and to actually ask…
Also, plan a schedule for check-in points during the transition: 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months and do a full review of your team, processes, and general flow in the office. These points are an excellent time to organize meetings with team members, other managers, and HR to ensure that you are successfully meeting your team’s needs and optimizing as you go along.
The transition back to in-office work will be a time of adjustments and re-prioritizing. We will all once again be tested with navigating change. Leading with a supportive and thoughtful approach will undoubtedly be the most effective, long-lasting adaptation to this new world. And know that experts are here to help and support you and your teams through such times. It’s what we are trained for and passionate about!