Five Tips for Leading your Team’s Return to the Office Post-Pandemic
We’re not yet free and clear of COVID-19, that’s for sure. But we (organizations) are making plans to gradually move our people back to the office. Some team members will welcome the return with open arms, while others are likely to be hesitant about it. And that’s ok.
However you or your team feel about this particular transition, as a leader you should view the return as an opportunity to continue to practice empathy, build trust and maintain productivity. Here are five tips to help you do just that as you lead your team back to the office.
Don’t let comms fall by the wayside.
It’s likely you increased your efforts to keep your team in-the-know while working from home, especially if they were remote newbies. And that’s a good thing since it’s helped keep job-related stress down and productivity and engagement up.
But just because you’re back together in a physical workspace doesn’t mean you can/should lessen your communication efforts. Continue to share information with the team, furthering the trust they’ve built in you and the organization.
Be prepared for difficult emotions.
The range of emotions your team displays when they return will be vast. Some may be fearful about the risk of infection. Some may feel guilty for leaving their children in the care of others. And some may have heavy hearts because a family member or friend passed away.
These are powerful emotions that can impact engagement and performance. As a leader, make sure you’re familiar with the emotional health resources your organization offers.
Remember it will take time to readjust.
Your team is still processing the disruption effects of the last couple of months: new ways of working or not working at all, relationships that became closer or ones that fell away, losing traditional rituals or gaining new ones, 24/7 togetherness or isolation.
Returning to the office will be another disruption to process, so don’t expect your team to get back into the groove right away. Be patient as you all attempt to (re)balance your lives once again.
Applaud the team’s WFH successes.
Even though some may feel like working from home was completely chaotic and that they were unable to get anything done, there’s no doubt your team accomplished quite a bit in the face of serious adversity.
Once you’ve all returned to the office, be sure to (re)acknowledge the challenging circumstances they’ve all had to deal with and, more importantly, recognize and celebrate in a public way both individual and collective successes of the team.
Avoid returning to the status quo.
Your people have changed. You’ve changed. The world has changed. What once was important, no longer is, and what used to be an afterthought is now top of mind. And the majority of us will likely want to sustain much of the change we’ve experienced.
Don’t lose this momentum by attempting to go back to “normal.” Instead, take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity with your team to create new expectations, norms and ways of working together.