As COVID restrictions relax, return to work planning has begun in earnest. This is a source of anxiety for many managers. Some fear pushback from staff who have recognized the many benefits of working from home. Others are willing to be flexible, but overwhelmed by trying to factor in all the changes that have occurred in the past year when settling on the right plan. How can you decide what return to work policy is best for your team?
The answer to this question will obviously vary greatly from business to business, but in most sectors of the service and knowledge economy, some type of hybrid model seems to be assumed. The emerging consensus for the big tech firms is a 3-day work week, with mid-week days dedicated to collaborative work. Pre-pandemic, some intriguing studies around a 4-day work week were already starting to look like the future of work to us.
Regardless of what you decide for your business, the number of days is far less important than how you use them. The success of all of these models will be contingent on having a clear purpose for in-office time, and a well thought out plan for achieving that purpose. No one wants to resume their pre-pandemic commute to attend indecisive meetings and inefficiently structured work time. This puts the responsibility on business leaders to be more intentional about assigning individual tasks and managing team workflow than ever before. Rather than measure productivity by time, measuring output is a much more efficient way to balance productivity and flexibility. As many have already learned during the pandemic, a higher baseline level of trust is also essential. If you don’t trust that your employees are capable and intrinsically motivated enough to produce value for your company out of your sight, you might want to revisit your hiring and employee review practices.
So better management of productivity will clearly be an important element of the success of a hybrid model. That said, allowing simple human-to-human connections and fostering a shared culture should absolutely be considered valuable purposes for in-office time. Work from home burnout is a real thing, and many of your employees will not only appreciate the opportunity to interact in-person with their colleagues, but be inspired and motivated by it. There are real benefits to dedicating some of your in-office time to things like an agenda-less lunch meeting. Relationships get strengthened, and spontaneous creativity happens when people have a space for unstructured interactions.
These are just some general ideas about how to shape your return to work plan. The details will necessarily be unique to the needs of your employees and customers. Last time we talked about some of the meta skills that can help chart a course for the post-pandemic business landscape. Now is an excellent time to review strategy, get clear on your intentions, and develop a future orientation. If you’d like support in designing the return to work plan that is the best fit for your company’s future, The Taylor Group’s executive coaching and current course work offers are a great place to start. There is a better way to return to work, one that keeps your customers happy, employees fulfilled, and business successful. We’d love to help you discover it.