by Daijha Thompson

September 16, 2021

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations quickly shifted, and office employees began working from home. That was a huge change for both employees and their managers.

Now, after more than a year and a half of remote work, some organizations are gearing up to make yet another change as they prepare to return to the office.

As this transition takes place, whether full-time or in a hybrid model, it is important that leadership help employees navigate this shift. Here are four impactful ways your organization’s leadership team can help employees:

1. Give employees a say

According to Rick Hamell, Founder and CEO of Elements Global Services, “this is one business decision that needs to be dictated by employees. Because this is related directly to their health and well-being, they need to feel like they have a say in how and when it happens.” Hamell’s words follow the change management methodology that people are more willing to adapt and adjust to a change when they have a say in what the change is and how it will occur. Consider getting your employees involved in some of these return to office decisions to give everyone a sense of ownership or administering a survey to gather their feedback and preferences.

2. Allow time for employees to adjust to the “new normal”

Many employees have gotten used to working from home. It is important for your company to have a flexible transition plan that gives employees plenty of time to adjust their schedules and lives to accommodate their transition back to the office.

3. Create clear and transparent safety protocols

The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, and as leaders, we must be sensitive to employees that are concerned about contracting the virus. Consider what safety protocols make sense for your office space and clearly communicate those protocols to all employees ahead of and during the transition back to the office. Enable managers with messaging and tools to remind their teams about the safety protocols.

4. Stay flexible

The transition back to the in-person work environment will come with its own set of challenges. Be sure to stay in contact with your employees, get a sense of how they are feeling and be ready to adjust your plan to meet the evolving needs of your organization.

At the end of the day, the most important element in this change is the people. You want your employees to adapt to the new work environment without damaging company culture, morale or productivity, and that begins and ends with a strong change management plan to help employees manage the transition back to the office. Communication, active listening, strategic thinking and research will be pivotal to the success of your return to office plan.

Want to talk through your return to office plan? Drop our change management practice leader Karin Bonev a line so we can set up some time to discuss.