Navigating Leadership In A Time Of Hybrid Work And Return-To-Office Policies
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape in offices across the world. Companies whose CEOs claimed that they would never allow a work-from-home policy found that they had no choice but to institute one.
Now that working in a physical office is becoming safer again, leaders are beginning to re-evaluate. Several Fortune 100 companies are calling workers back in with sweeping return-to-office (RTO) policies, so should your company do the same?
Making The Decision
If you are in a leadership position that allows you to participate in the decision-making process in dictating your company’s new work structure, there are a few key questions to consider.
What are my company’s core values? Corporate culture and values should be a part of every major decision because they ultimately define a successful business. Consider whether an in-person work model is a crucial part of maintaining these principles.
What do my employees have to say on the matter? Ask for opinions and input from all levels. Employees may provide the critical piece of data you need to make an informed decision. Plus, their morale is a crucial part of a company’s success. Would they be motivated or disheartened if called back into the office? Even if you ultimately make a choice some disagree with, just asking for their thoughts can garner goodwill.
Have you seen a noticeable difference in productivity levels from employees working at home? Look at the data to decide if an in-person working model could possibly boost or decrease productivity.
What are the COVID-19 safety protocols that should be put in place? Signage that encourages frequent handwashing, hand-sanitizing stations in common areas and mask policies are all examples of hygiene regulations that I have seen implemented. The CDC guidelines are a fantastic resource to consult when choosing these protocols.
What are some hybrid options? An RTO policy does not have to be all or nothing. Perhaps the best option is a hybrid model that requires workers to attend on a few designated days a week, but they get the option to stay home on others.
Empowering Employees Through Change
Regardless of your company’s final decision, remember that change can be scary for people—especially for those who feel powerless during the decision-making process.
In order to keep employees engaged and productive, be sure that a team’s expectations are clearly communicated. Keep a living document that employees can consult from time to time. Among other things, this document should outline the company’s COVID-19 policies, employee expectations and communication guidelines.
Speaking of communication, today’s knowledge workers use several different channels, and each may have a favorite. However, with all the text messages, video calls, phone calls, emails, Slack messages and social media DMs, information can easily be lost or buried. To avoid confusion, I recommend outlining acceptable use for each type of channel.
For example, use Slack to arrange meetings or ask quick non-project-related questions. Emails can be a great way to outline progress reports or meeting notes. As a team, decide on the right form of communication for the right occasion so that information does not get lost. Make sure to keep this information in your living document and send reminders occasionally to make sure the team is adhering to the plan.
Clear communication and expectations are key to your success as a leader in these times of hybrid work models. Whether working from the office or from the comfort of your couch, successful teamwork can be possible.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes