We asked our Workplace practice lead Nick Srebrow to weigh in on the results of our recent poll asking readers what kind of work environment they prefer in a post-pandemic world. Here are his takeaways.
“Return to Work” Remains the Topic du Jour
Most of the work The Clearing’s workplace team is engaged in right now is focused on the return to the office. And that makes sense – it’s a question all organizations are facing right now.
First of all, management is wrestling in general with how to actually get people back in the physical office space. While the jury is still out, our teams hear from leaders that while people are productive remotely, efficiency is way down. Especially when team members must collaborate with other people. In short, people are still getting the work done, it’s just taking a longer time.
Second, even companies that have always had a “tight-knit” culture are struggling with how to do this right. Much of that culture is derived from being in the office. They want to hold onto that culture; however, most are realistic that times are changing. That means they’re trying to figure out how they can bring people back into the office in a meaningful way that meshes with the desires of their teams.
Finally, our teams are seeing a mix between companies wanting people in the office on certain days vs. allowing team members to choose for themselves; however, one trend is universal: people want flexibility. That’s putting the pressure on management that if they do tell their employees to come in on a certain day, they better make that day worth it for the employee. If people are just going to sit in an office with their door shut, what’s the point of making them come back?
And if our poll results tell us anything, while the majority of people want to work in a hybrid model where they choose the in-office days, opinions on the matter are still split – even among workers.
What Comes Next?
With all of that in mind, our Workplace team put together three key takeaways to think about when considering your organization’s return to the office conversations. Consider these the drivers to help decide if it’s time to go back to the office, whether your organization should go back quickly or take it slow, or if your teams need to go back at all. The answers to these questions may also impact how your organization lays out its physical space in the future – if it needs physical space, that is.
- Get Clear on the “why.” Why do you want to bring employees back to the office? Would it make work easier? Then ask yourself why employees would want to come back. These two years have proven most people can work from home, so why are you asking them to change that?
- Consider the efficiency of your staff. Not the ability of your staff, the efficiency. Determine if your teams are still collaborating and getting things done in the virtual environment. Then, determine how much time it’s taking vs. what similar tasks used to when conducted in office. Finally, make sure you exclude your fixed costs (like utilities, rent, etc.) to get a true gauge of how much it is costing your employees to fulfill their jobs. If you find out your staff is actually more efficient in the virtual environment, you don’t have to bring them back. You can take this information and consider what to do with office space. Get rid of it? Repurpose it? That’s a topic that deserves a post of its own.
- Conduct a culture check. The last question to ask yourself is, “Is my organization seeing a degradation of our intended Culture?” Put simply, are you seeing a positive or negative shift in the culture you had pre-pandemic? If it’s positive, what learnings do you want team members to bring with them back into the office? If it’s negative, how can you bring people back in a way that gets rid of that?
I know these conversations aren’t easy – we’re going through the same topics here at The Clearing. While these issues put leaders in an unenviable position, I do believe the ultimate outcome of this “great reckoning” will be positive; however, getting there may be painful.
If you want to chat about this, or any other workplace issue on your mind, I’m always ready. Just ping me at email@example.com.