5 ways to build resilience as your people return to the office
We’ve just been through the world’s biggest ‘working from home’ experiment and, despite the hardships, we’ve shown it works. Now the easing of lockdown restrictions presents us with an opportunity to do things a little differently: to challenge our ways of working and reflect on what works for us as an individual, team and organisation.
Excitement about a return to ‘normality’ is likely to be counterbalanced by some apprehension. Will it mean longer working hours; a return to the daily grind; a renewed sense of presenteeism?
How can you prepare your teams for a positive transition back to the office? What will the ‘new normal’ be for you and your organisation? And how can you ensure you learn from the last 12 months, as well as looking forward to the next?
Here are five tips to build your resilience as your people prepare to return to the office.
1. Find a way that works for you.
Collaborate across your organisation to find a way of working that works for you. A collaborative approach will increase buy-in and engagement with whatever you decide – whether that’s a full return to the office, hybrid working or the use of a local shared office or hub. If people feel buy in to the idea they are more likely to feel positive about the return to the office and all the opportunities it brings.
2. Don’t all rush at once.
Encourage your people to stagger their return to work. Give them the freedom to choose where they work in the first week or two – whether that’s at home or back in the office, or out in the field. Giving people a choice will make them feel more in control of their situation and, therefore, more resilient to the ups and downs of returning to the office.
3. Map out your ideal week.
Work with your people to map out the ideal week for your team or organisation. Ask for feedback so people feel involved in the decision, and challenge yourself to think differently. Do you really need everyone in the office every day? In fact, do you really need everyone in the office every Monday / Wednesday / Friday, or is the important thing that everyone is present for certain key meetings? Look to organisations you’d like to emulate. What are your clients, stakeholders and other contacts doing in this respect?
4. Work in some ‘work’ time.
Don’t expect everyone to return to their old routine of face-to-face meetings from 9 to 5 (or 6, or 7…). Encourage your teams to schedule in pure ‘work’ time – focussed time that is protected from meetings and calls. This will enable them to do the work generated in their meetings and give them a chance to catch their breath before the next meeting. You can even limit the number of meetings in a day; a maximum of four, say, role-modelled from the top. However you manage it, this focussed time will be even more critical during the transition back to the office as people get used to their new ways of working.
5. Give people permission to choose how to use their time.
One benefit of purely working from home has been the ability for people to schedule in time for themselves, whether that’s going for a run in the middle of the day, attending an online class or taking the dog for an afternoon walk. The last year of working from home has shown that people feel empowered when they have an element of control in their day. What can you do to protect that sense of control when restrictions ease and we’re not all working from home every day? Discuss it with your teams and give them permission to structure their day in their own way. They’ve been doing it for the last year. Protecting this sense of empowerment will be key as you prepare to return to the office.
The pandemic has given us all an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we work. Let’s not waste it by returning unquestioningly to business as usual.
If you would like support for your teams when lockdown restrictions ease, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Shepherd is an Organisational Psychologist and career coach, with 15 years’ experience designing and delivering assessment, development and change management solutions. She is an expert in career coaching, specialising in supporting flexible working, and has coached senior leaders from a range of organisations, helping them to identify their key drivers and supporting them to find a practical and rewarding balance in life.