Now that the opportunity to return to the physical workplace is a real proposition for many remote workers and their employers, the transition promises to be both challenging and exciting for all. How can people be brought back safely? What will the hybrid work strategy look like? And, above all, how can the new workplace value proposition elevate the employee experience, perhaps in ways it fell short pre-pandemic?
The workplace value proposition answers the question of why people come to the physical workplace. It encompasses the organizational culture, collaborations, knowledge sharing, and any number of interactions and benefits people experience when working in relative close promixity.
Making remote work the primary work arrangement has required significant shifts for many. It may take some time and new ways of encouraging people to adapt again to a either a return to the office/workplace full-time, or in some hybrid remote/office-based arrangement. The latter will likely be the arrangement for most. Some will dread the return to regular commuting, while others will be keen to return to the face-to-face interactions that make work enjoyable and in many ways more productive. How to reacquaint everyone on the benefits of being together in a shared physical space?
Consider four advantages of working onsite and what that may look like for your organization now:
Connection – unlike connecting by video conference, the physical workplace offers opportunities for quick connects, hallway chats, and in-person time with colleagues, clients and managers. The socialization recharge is likely what your teams are needing. With hybrid work becoming the new norm for many, communication and effective facilitation from the manager will be essential. To maximize connection, find a day or two when the majority of people’s schedules overlap, and encourage them to prioritize on-site work for that day.
Collaboration – Remote work has created restrictions on the free flow of communication, with it’s inherent limitations of screen sharing and interaction. Returning to the office can help foster and re-kindle trust with visibility around each person’s contribution. The challenge will be to create inclusivity and equity when some are still working remotely and may miss key opportunities for participation and development. New “virtual first” norms will need to be created to ensure remote workers are intentionally brought into key moments of collaboration.
Creativity – The challenges with connection and collaboration have also left a gap in everyday creativity at work. Spontaneous creativity – found in impromptu hallway conversations, lunches and coffee breaks – became obsolete for many. The value of being back in the physical workplace means that on-site meetings make it easier to wildly brainstorm ideas onto whiteboards and organize them into something useful. However, if this was challenging pre-Covid due to heavy workloads, now is an opportune time to re-set creative energy. Plan for unplanned creative time by scheduling meetings – 60 minutes a month for example – to discuss interesting topics and share ideas and experience without a strict agenda. Make sure your innovation space includes videoconferencing and virtual collaboration tools so remote workers aren’t left out.
Culture – Culture creates a shared experience for employees that’s reflected in their collective values and behaviors. Being together, in person, strengthens “how we do things around here as a team” and helps everyone feel like they’re part of something important. Teams will now need to be intentional about why and how they spend their time on-site versus at home. What are the opportunities and challenges presented by spending at least part of your week on-site?
It’s time to create your team’s “return-to-the-workplace” road map that will embody your workplace value proposition. Start with shared purpose and goals, and the behaviors and outcomes you expect from one another. How do those align with your corporate values? How can you be more intentional about how you spend your time in the office versus at home?