Companies offering vaccination drives, increasing hygiene protocols, and the use of protective personal equipment are the dernier cri of 2021. ‘Return-to-work’ is all set to happen as managers would say it. We all would see it as an imperative step. But, isn’t it portraying the employees returning from a long vacation, or getting back from a sabbatical or a long leave?
In reality, ‘Return-to-office’ Depicts resuming work from the physical office location like it used to be before the covid crisis rather than resuming of work.
A more coherent explanation for it is that the term doesn’t suggest returning to work after a leave of absence. The employees have been working very hard and delivering results as they would while working from an office.
Now, the current situation remains where the employers are in a conflict with the whole return-to-office idea and as to how much they should accommodate an employee’s choice to working from where they want. Whereas the employees who are not working in a parallel universe might find it difficult to align with their employer’s ideas and actions about working from the office again.
In a situation where such a clash of opinions is bound to happen, how should the leaders shape policies and protocols according to the situation? What is the perfect approach that would lead to a healthy dialogue when the employee’s preference is not aligned with the employer’s methods?
1- Incorporating Safety and Flexibility : The pandemic has given a new definition to work. Before the crisis, work-from-home or remote working was limited to the gig economy and was not as openly accepted as it is these days. In the wake of the scenario, organizations are trying to recognize ways to integrate an employee’s preferred work environment.
As the pandemic waves begin to subside, employers have a pool of choices in regards to the up-gradation of the work policy. Should there be a compulsion of getting vaccinated and returning to the physical office or not? Whether the employees should work remotely or is it too much of that already? Should the employer update policies according to an employee’s choices?
In this situation, Microsoft sets the perfect example of post-pandemic work policies and employee management. They have prioritized physical, mental, and emotional health by being flexible with their work-from-office arrangements. Teams can choose to collaborate and work in a similar brick-and-mortar office or can work virtually together.
2- Exploring the Potential To Bring the Best in People : Understanding the preferences, mental health, and emotional needs of the workforce can create a humble ground for both employees and employers. Being flexible with the approach and formulating policies for the team by keeping the team in mind is the need of the hour. This will help in smooth working and making your employees part of a bigger picture.
For better employee management, employers must not forget to:
a- Encourage Flexible Work Environment : Leaders should be aware of their employee’s preferences and formulate policies according to them. While some might agree, there are still going to be a few who are not ready to work from the office space. Keeping every employee’s concern in mind is a must.
b- Identify the Outdated Work Plan and Chip In Accordingly
It is very important to identify the blind spots of leader-team communication. Leaders and companies are assuming things and formulating policies accordingly. Preferences of every employee vary in accordance to remote working vs working from an office. The leaders should approach this problem by keeping their employees and the company’s policies in mind to get the best results.
c- Sensitize Towards Your Employee’s Needs
Increase two-way conversations with your team members and ask genuine questions to them. Having close discussions with your employees can increase transparency and help them be more comfortable. Asking questions and genuinely listening to your employees is the only way to getting to know them better. This will give an insight into their needs and encourage them to have an open platform where they can share easily without any second thoughts.
Being more transparent and direct about your decisions in your discussions is much needed right now. Whether your company needs remote working, or returning-to-office is the current demand, you can only decide after clear consultation with your employees who are the true assets of your company.