What challenges do you anticipate when employees return to the office?

3.5k views34 Comments

CIO in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Over the last couple years of working at home, I’ve noticed that when I have gone into the office, being in these in person meetings takes so much of my energy. It's different from meeting virtually where I have the relaxation of being in my own home and I can go do what I want in between meetings. But in person, you need this elevated level of energy to interact and take in all this stimulation. So one strategy of mine is just recognizing that the other team members will go through that. Since we've gone remote, my IT department is probably the most engaged that they've been in the history of the organization, because this works well for them. They can just do their work and be able to check out. So it will be important to recognize that people are going to have challenges with their energy levels.
Director of IT in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I love the energy of being in the office, but it is a different level of exhaustion. I’ve come to take it for granted that I don't have to battle that right now. I almost forgot that I'm actually pretty introverted. And it's much easier to do whatever you need to when you’re meeting virtually; even if you're doing back-to-back meetings, you can schedule 15 or 30 minutes in between. But when you're in the office, in that same 15-minute interval you're at your computer, looking like you're working while you're really trying to refresh. You can't just sit at your desk and stare. You can take a walk but it's a different expectation. Those unconscious changes in the way that you operate during the day will be a common challenge as people return to work. 
VP of Engineering in Software, 11 - 50 employees
We anticipate a need to restart group lunches and group events. HR also plans to have multiple short sessions to remind everyone of the need to be civil, not discriminate, mindful of others and helping - just a normal employee. We also expect IT to be busy reconnecting everyone at the office while maintaining their home connectivity, as we do not expect a full-time return to the office for most employees. Management also plans for a few issues with commuting and with personal family events that employees got used to managed directly at home for 2 1/2 years. So far, the few employees who returned to the office 3 days or more are fine, so we may be too worried and overplanning.
Solutions Architect in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
From my perspective, the first question that should be answered is: "What are the benefits of returning to office? What business aspects does it improve and what problems does it solve?"

Our company is globally distributed across multiple countries and dozens of cities. The teams do not benefit from this quick synchronous communication, that can be achieved in the office because it still requires zoom calls to involve people.

So the business first has to decide if there are more benefits from returning back to the office than downsides.
Chief Technology Officer in Software, 11 - 50 employees
This really depends from organization to organization. Generally speaking, working hours have gone up after work from home was introduced. However, this does not necessarily equate to better productivity. The social aspect of going into work is an important factor in keeping people motivated. 

There will be teething issues with reintroducing a mandatory return to office. The general exhaustion of traveling to work and the cost associate to it tend to demotivate employees as well. 
CTO in Education, 10,001+ employees
Bringing together. Groups for meetings when everyone is use to having thier own space . Return to office norms and expectations . Many will struggle with a return to structure of a typical day 
Chief Technology Officer in Healthcare and Biotech, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
A huge challenge will be being on-site but still spending all day in Teams/Zoom calls because either people are hybrid working and not everyone is in the office the same day, or because the company has realised it can hire anywhere and so now our colleagues are far-flung. It will be demoralising to commute only to still be on calls each day.
Earlier CIO in Manufacturing, Self-employed
Travel time increases in many cities in India due to traffic jams.  Productivity of teams drop.  Employees who have been in the comfort of their homes in last 2 years, will miss this comfort.  On the other hand face to face meetings will help build better relationship.  However, wrong practices such moonlighting with various organisations would stop.  It is going to be a mixed gain or loss situation and results will be contextual. 

Women managing children would find it difficult to get back to the syndrome of coming to office leaving their children in day care.

Hence, companies need to handle this situation carefully by first moving to a hybrid mode and then slowly switching over to 100% office attendance mode giving leeway for employees to migrate.   I would suggest that keeping hybrid mode permanently would add great advantage as it would make employees more productive by reducing their time to travel to office
Sr. Director of Engineering in Software, 51 - 200 employees
Adaptability to work during fixed office hours is going to be challenging and will take most time to settle in. Also, while social interaction will increase but that will impact the self time management for that individual's tasks as well. Not to mention, the commuting time is going to be feel like wasted as well. It'll not only take time but will also drain down the energy levels too. Having said all this, its going to be be tough and will take a while for employees to get adapted back to earlier mode of work.   
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
We are back to office for quite some time now. No major issues or disadvantages from it so far.

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CTO in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
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Yes, we schedule these as separate meetings37%

No, we discuss them at the same time during scheduled performance reviews51%

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