Supporting Workers As They Return To The Office

With vaccination programmes well under way and restrictions easing, workers around the world are naturally starting to wonder about one thing: returning to the office. As a result, many managers are finding themselves bombarded with questions. Here are some tips on answering many of the trickier ones.

At the forefront of many minds is the question of whether remote and hybrid working options will abruptly come to an end once all pandemic restrictions are lifted. While many companies may still be undecided about their long-term working policy, it is important to give people clarity. If long working hours and significant time in the office is expected, managers need to be explicit and upfront about it – but they should also think about incorporating other ways of offering choice and flexibility.

Flexibility around time is also on workers’ minds, with many wondering about the possibility of exploring a four-day week. Managers can find creative ways to experiment with time-based flexibility at a team level, perhaps by implementing core hours or “summer slowdowns” where teams work a half-day on Fridays.

One especially tricky question managers must navigate is the impact remote or flexible working could have on employees’ careers. While we are experiencing a unique moment of empathy for remote work – because we have all experienced it – many will have seen remote and flexible colleagues discriminated against in the past. When responding to these fears, managers should avoid being defensive, instead listening to team members’ fears about biases and confronting any “unwritten rules” around presenteeism.

No matter how tricky or sensitive the question, the key is to address it in an open and collaborative spirit, with a view to seeking creative ways of allaying fears and promoting fairness.

Read the full Bloomberg Businessweek article here.