As the country eases into a new “post-pandemic” normal, workers are being called back to the office. While this should be a time of celebration, there are many employees who have gotten very comfortable in their Work from Home (WFH) situation and may be reluctant to return to an in-person work environment. Part of the challenge is that old routines are long gone so we can’t jump right back into how things were pre-pandemic. So, how can managers help their employees transition back to the workplace?
There are several ways that management can support the process but the first thing to do is acknowledge that most workers don’t want to return back to the office full-time. Pew researchers found that 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home say they would like to keep working at home all or most of the time even when the pandemic is over. This is up from a pre-pandemic number of 54%. In addition, a survey from Harvard Business School of 1,500 employees revealed that only 18% want to return to in-person work full time.
How to Help Your Employees Transition Back to the Workplace
If your company has decided to transition workers away from the WFH schedule they have become accustomed to during the pandemic, it’s important for managers or owners to create a smooth process and figure out a way to keep their employees motivated.
1. Offer as much flexibility as possible
While it may be tempting to require all employees to come back to the office full-time, it would be wise to offer as much flexibility as you can. If your workers have been successfully getting their jobs done from home for two years, consider offering a hybrid schedule where they can work part of the week from home. The more control your employees feel they are given over their work conditions, the more accepting they will be about the transition.
2. Communicate clearly
If the company has decided that the work from home policy will be changing, give employees a heads up that a new policy is on its way. As soon as a decision has been made about a return-to-work policy, the details should be communicated clearly to all employees. Explain the reasoning behind the new policies and protocols so employees can understand the why even if they aren’t thrilled about the change.
3. Listen to concerns while being honest about the options
HR managers may be hearing from workers after being told that a transition back to the workplace will be happening. When people feel like a situation is unfair or upsetting, they want to be heard. This means listening to concerns with empathy while being honest about what is and what isn’t within your control as an HR manager. When you treat people with respect, they are less likely to become a persistent thorn in your side as the transition plays out.
4. Give employees time to adjust to the new normal
Change is rarely easy at first, but given space and time, things usually workout. After addressing initial reactions and concerns, give employees some time to adjust to the new policy. Accept that they may be quiet or grumpy as they process the change in their routine. In the end, workers are more likely to come around if they don’t feel like the policy is being crammed down their throat and they are given time and space to accept the change.
5. Be fair about exceptions
If you have the discretion to make exceptions to the back to work policy, it’s extremely important to apply them consistently. When applied fairly, exceptions are less likely to create resentment among your team. One way to do this is to ask employees to make requests and then discuss as a group the fairest way to approve exceptions.
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