Bringing employees back to the office – with value and less resistance

Written by James Miller

April 9, 2024

In the rapidly evolving landscape of today’s work culture, the transition from remote to hybrid working has become a strong desire for many leaders and significant challenge at the same time. As a leadership trainer & consultant, I’ve worked with countless leaders grappling with this issue. The key question that arises: How can we effectively bring employees back to the office while maintaining motivation and productivity?


Understanding the Frustration Behind the Transition

The frustration among employees is understandable. Many express frustrations and reluctance, especially when faced with seemingly random requirements like being in the office three days a week. After all, the shift isn’t just about changing location; it’s about adapting to a new way of working that impacts their daily lives. Some needing to invest multiple hours in transit cutting out valuable time from their private lives, to then sit in the office and have meeting via video call.


The Key to a Successful Transition: Team-Driven Value

The solution lies in focusing on value – specifically, team-driven value. Basically: enforcing top-down mandates about office days leads to strong resistance. The most successful leaders focused on understanding what activities genuinely benefit from in-person collaboration. What tasks are more efficient, creative, or effective when done face-to-face? They developed this with the teams. Once they knew which interactions are more valuable face to face it was easy to calculate how many office days are needed.


A Step-by-Step Approach to Crafting a Hybrid Model

  1. Identify In-Person Activities: Begin with team meetings to define tasks that are enhanced by physical presence. How much time does each activity require, and how does it fit into the broader context of inter-team interactions?
  2. Establish Clear Office Guidelines: Develop a set of rules or a code of conduct that maximizes office time together with the team. This could include stipulations on punctuality, technology usage, and ensuring that the focus of the in person time remains on face-to-face interactions.
  3. Implement a Structured Trial Period: Once you’ve defined how much time your team needs in the office, trial it. Organize these days effectively and evaluate over two to six months what works and what doesn’t, making adjustments based on team feedback.
  4. Leave Room for Social Interaction: An often-overlooked aspect of in-office days is the value of social interaction. Make sure to leave time for coffee breaks, lunches, and the team building activities. These moments are crucial for team bonding and overall morale.
  5. Align with other teams: Which interactions between teams benefit from in person communication? What days work best for the involved teams?


Conclusion: Crafting a Purposeful Hybrid Experience

This approach may initially take more time to define, and may include some uncomfortable conversations. However by adopting a value-centric approach, leaders can develop a hybrid working model that resonates with everyone involved. It’s about creating a system where team members understand and appreciate the purpose behind their office time. This leads to a more motivated workforce, where each individual sees personal and collective benefits, aligning their goals with those of the organization.

As we navigate these changes, remember, it’s not just about finding the right balance; it’s about redefining our work culture to thrive in a hybrid setting. Here’s to setting up a successful and fulfilling hybrid work environment!

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