Returning to the office is increasingly becoming more top of mind. Here, we discuss how to navigate these turbulent waters in a way that builds positive relationships with your employees: focusing on transparency, addressing specific concerns, and trusting your leaders.
Based on a recent report from Deloitte, several companies are emphasizing transparency, simplicity and continuity in their performance evaluation frameworks. Additionally, other reports found that corporate transparency positively impacts long-term employee retention.
How to incorporate this into your return-to-office plan?
Step 1: Listen First. Plan Second.
While it may be easier to begin implementing policies and procedures to increase workplace visibility, doing so may result in overlooking major issues and hesitations. Instead, survey your employees to pinpoint their primary concern(s). After the survey is completed, we recommend sharing an anonymized, aggregated report of their feedback in a company-wide presentation, document or email.
For instance, you could share to your organization the breakdown of their feedback, e.g., 60% of respondents shared they were concerned about rising commuting costs, while 40% of respondents shared their concerns around health and safety in the workspace.
Why is this important? Reciting is an essential component of active listening. Tell your employees the specific conclusions drawn from the employee survey – and why. This assures your employees that the plan created on returning to the office has taken their needs into account – that they have a voice at the table.
Step 2: Address the Specifics
If your employees’ feedback brings forth concerns about childcare, make it evidently clear – preferably with a written policy – that their children’s wellbeing is paramount. For an even more active approach, some companies opt to expand childcare benefits. If employees’ main concerns are the rise in commuting costs, consider providing incentives for employees who elect to take public transportation. Or, offer flexible arrival times to help employees avoid peak traffic hours.
If health and safety concerns are most evident, share your detailed plan on office safety and sanitary guidelines. The CDC’s guidelines may be helpful.
Step 3: Trust Your Leaders
A report from Microsoft calls hybrid work ‘inevitable,’ but experts at McKinsey have found that many employees and employers are unsure of what this will look like. Accordingly, McKinsey recommends that employers be “sincere about experimenting and learning from the outcomes of your experiments.” One way to implement this practice is by giving managers and teams the autonomy to try different arrangements. It is important to trust the leaders you have put in place to set the right policies for their reports.
For example, your marketing team may decide to work in the office every day, while your accounting department prefers to work from home twice a week. If possible, allow each department to set the schedule that works best for them. This will help teams hold themselves accountable to the standards they put in place.
Bottom Line: Returning to the office offers a lot of wins, but a lot of risks as well. You can mitigate those risks by following the three steps provided: Listen First. Plan Second., Addressing the Specifics, and Trusting your Leaders.