What will the return to the workplace look like?
While everyone is worried about the Great Resignation and its impact on our labor market and economy, I’m concerned about the return to the workplace — what will it look like, when will it happen and are we in for the traditional on-site work environment of pre-COVID days or, more likely, a mix of in-office and remote experiences?
In Resigility’s work with government agencies, we’ve heard about the potential for core hours, when all employees are at the work site, combined with flexible hours, allowing staggered arrivals and departures. This is really another hybrid configuration, which carries different challenges. For example, before COVID we all experienced times when colleagues had to work from home due to a sick child or other demands, requiring them to join meetings by phone or videoconferencing. The typical outcome? Those in the office dictated the meeting, all but ignoring remote coworkers. Even if the core/flexible hours approach provides greater consistency in our day-to-day work world and as we’ve become accustomed to virtual meetings, I’m worried that having some employees in the office and others remote will perpetuate an inequitable workplace dynamic.
To address this concern, we canvassed our Resigility team to gauge their preferences and generate suggestions for the potential of a new hybrid work environment. Their feedback was clear: Consultants who have designated workspaces at client offices want to work there, however, they’d like flexibility to avoid morning and evening rush-hour traffic. They also favor blending on-site and remote work — two or three days per week of each — or having the option of working remotely on days without scheduled client meetings.
We’ve also been gathering tips to help clients make the best of whatever workplace scenario comes about. Here are a few ideas to drive collaboration and team-building in a hybrid situation:
• Engage everyone in meetings by making sure remote and on-site teammates can see presenters, flip charts and virtual whiteboard notes.
• Use polling tools, such as the phone-based Poll Everywhere survey, versus a show of hands.
• Have a strong meeting facilitator to draw everyone in and encourage remote participants to make comments, use avatars or chat feedback tools.
Resilience and agility
For those who’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of working from home, it’s important to reinforce office benefits — high-performing equipment, proper desk setups, consistent Wi-Fi, ease of collaborating in person, seeing work friends, and the clear separation of work and home life. We also need to reconsider workplace etiquette for handshakes, sitting next to a coworker, masks and more.
We may not know when the return to the workplace will happen or in what form, but we know it’s coming. I’m hoping we’ll soon gain clarity about what’s ahead and, like our company name, demonstrate resilience and agility to adapt as we move forward.