As the end of the pandemic moves closer every day, many office-staff employers are debating what the future of their work strategy will look like. Although Upwork’s Future Workforce Pulse Report estimated 26.7% percent of Americans will continue to work remotely through 2021, many employees are itching to get back into the office. And, on the other hand, many are not. As an employer, you are tasked with developing a return-to-office strategy that appeases all levels of employees, maintains compliance, and serves the needs of your organization.
Lighthouse, An Alera Group Company, a local leader in employee benefits consulting, offers five things to consider when developing a return-to-office strategy:
- Establish Your End Goal: How do you want to see your team engaging with in-office vs. remote work when all is said and done? Immediately following the mass office closures in early 2020, “return to normal” was the goal for most employers – leadership was trying to figure out how much longer before we can all go back to how things used to be. Now that the shock of the pandemic has worn off, many employers have had time to reconsider their work from home practices and what makes sense for their workforce going forward. When strategizing for your own return-to-office plan, establish on the front end what makes sense for your company post-pandemic. Do you need everyone back in person 100% of the time? Or would introducing a flex-time schedule be beneficial for your operation and employees? Determine this now and use this goal to inform the rest of your strategic decisions going forward.
- Honor Your Core Values: In determining your end goal and the decisions you are making throughout the process, you don’t have to do what the “big guys” are doing. Facebook, Google, and Adobe were quick to announce plans to permanently embrace remote work. Tech companies of the like have the most to gain financially from a remote workforce and, therefore, have a high interest in encouraging companies to stick with the WFH model. Know what your competition and the rest of the industry are doing, but your organization has its own people, culture, and business objectives which should be your primary influence in determining your own return-to-office game plan.
- Use Technology Wisely: Establishing your end goal first and keeping your core values front and center will help determine your technology use going forward. Many organizations found technological solutions for remote work far exceeded their expectations at the beginning of the Stay Home order. However, leaders should be careful not to let technology capabilities be the primary influence in determining a come-back strategy. Just because you have the technology to make remote work more efficient does not mean remote work is the most efficient. Consider what outputs will be sacrificed should you implement too many remote work technology solutions and determine if that is a price you are willing to pay. Additionally, once you determine the appropriate technology use going forward, set clear service standards. Is it okay to take virtual meetings from a coffee shop? Are there professional attire guidelines that should be followed? Make the expectations clear from the start.
- Have Patience: If we have learned anything this year, it is that things change quickly. It is important not to set too many hard and fast expectations that could easily be altered by the next regional outbreak or even a changed mind. Consistent and transparent communication is necessary, but formal return-to-office strategy announcements should be well thought out and actionable. Many workplace cultures are already relatively fragile due to the unknowns and financial unrest of the last year. It can add further stress to announce a return-to-office plan prematurely, upsetting the portion of your workforce who wants to stay at home, then not being able to stick with the announced strategy due to unanticipated outside factors.
- Leverage Leadership: With today’s fight for top talent retention, understanding where your employees stand on the matter is key. Often, survey responses are emotionally charged and do not always reflect the true sentiments of the employee population. Instead, engage in frequent and honest conversation with management about how their teams feel toward their current production levels, their concerns about in office work, and their expectations for returning to the office.
Zach Haan, Senior Account Executive
The information contained herein should be understood to be general insurance brokerage information only and does not constitute advice for any particular situation or fact pattern and cannot be relied upon as such. Statements concerning financial, regulatory, or legal matters are based on general observations as an insurance broker and may not be relied upon as financial, regulatory, or legal advice.