You made the transition from working from the office to working at home over a year ago. Now it’s time to make another shift – navigating a combination of remote, hybrid, and in-person work – or the “Next Normal.” No matter where you sit on the organizational chart, it’s important to learn how you can make a positive contribution to your organization as these changes occur.
We’ve compiled some strategies you can use to ease into this next transition:
1. Make Your Case
If you wish to keep remote work as an option, be prepared to make a case for your preferred balance of remote and in-person worklife. If you’ve been managing up successfully, you’re tuned in to what’s important to your boss. Productivity? Collaboration? Innovation? All of the above? Use a tracker to demonstrate what you’re accomplishing remotely. A simple spreadsheet can provide plenty of information.
Remember, even though you may see this as a return to the way things were—a return to the office represents significant organizational change and needs to be treated as such. One of the most important things you can do is to make the case for change. This means reminding people of the value of co-located working time. The first question many employees will ask is “why?”. Be prepared to make a case for returning to the office! What tasks and activities are best suited for in-person work? How will you provide for flexibility and autonomy on in-person workdays? Your staff will be asking: “is this something I could have accomplished at home, without the commute?” Make sure you’re prepared to make the compelling case for in-person tasks and activities!
2. Communicate up and down
If you feel apprehensive about this next workplace transition, ask your employer to share more details with you about the plans to return to the workplace. Sharing how you’re feeling in an honest and authentic way can help your company help you! Express your concerns and articulate what support you need during this time.
Give your people a chance to be heard and listen to them! This is a great time to conduct pulse checks and anonymous surveys to get an idea of how everyone feels about these new expectations. Once you have an understanding of where your staff stands, you can enhance your plans to address their concerns. Do your best to provide them with support and resources to help them successfully navigate into the next normal.
3. Be flexible and willing to make compromises
When we switched from in-person to remote work, you were forced to adapt to a new place of work and way of working. It’s time to remember that time and how to flex those muscles again – just in a different way. Tap into the strategies you used then and think about how you can use them this time around!
Keep in mind that your employees will be making the transition from having quite a bit of flexibility to a more regimented work structure. Try to make this change a gradual one for them and allow opportunities for flexible hours or schedules to keep morale and job satisfaction high. This will help keep people happy and productive – a win-win situation.
4. Encourage innovation
Think about when, where, and how you perform your best and come up with your most innovative ideas. If it involves a brainstorming session with others – invite them to hop on a conference or video call with you. If it’s uninterrupted time in the morning – time block your calendar. Share this with your team so they can help you channel your most productive and creative self.
Create opportunities for employees to be innovative in and out of the office. While this might happen more naturally in a physical workplace when people are bumping into each other in the hallway, it is certainly possible to set your virtual and hybrid teams up for success. Think about incorporating project management (Asana, Trello), document sharing (Dropbox, Google Drive), and collaboration tools (Slack, Huddle) if you haven’t already.
5. Cultivate workplace culture
What parts of your company’s culture did you enjoy when you were in the office? What ideas do you have for improvement? Be sure to vocalize your views to leadership and see how you can help them transfer those aspects over to this new working environment.
This is a great time to reflect on the culture at your company. How are you keeping employees engaged? What happens outside of the work you do? Consider celebrating team wins more frequently, setting up happy hours and activities, and ending meetings with icebreaker questions to get to know everyone on a more person level (we do that here at Careerstone Group!)
You play a very important role as we phase into the “Next Normal.” Stay connected with your team and work together to make this change as easy and stress-free as possible.