What are some strategies for preparing your workforce to return to in-person or hybrid working?

2.6k views12 Comments

Director of IT in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I've been thinking about doing more informal cocktail hours, or meeting for coffee before we all start to make a concerted effort to go back into the office. Because it does feel somewhat awkward after being fully remote for so long. I was talking to a friend of mine who started a new job and weeks later the whole team was going back into the office. He said, “It was awkward. I went to shake somebody's hand but then I pulled back because I didn't know if they were comfortable with handshakes.” Getting a sense of someone’s comfort level for an in-person interaction is an additional layer to building a relationship when you're trying to impress them, especially if they’re in leadership. You're establishing a rapport and then you have this extra layer added; you don't want to offend them or come across too warm.
3 Replies
CIO in Finance (non-banking), 51 - 200 employees

It goes both ways, too. Because you may not feel comfortable shaking hands and they do. So many things are running through your mind. A lot of people are getting real anxiety over going back to working in the office. They’re saying, “I'm fine with just being at home on Zoom. I can't mess that up.” If they go into the office again, there’s the whole hand shaking issue: do we touch at all? Do we do a fist bump? Do we wear masks? What's the comfort level of four people in a conference room? There are so many permutations running through their head that they just want to stick with meeting virtually.

Director of IT in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

Maybe being very upfront about those issues would help, even if it's just saying, “I know everybody's going to feel this way and all of that is okay.” It could be good to call it out upfront before we get together. That way we don't have to try to guess what each other's comfort level is.

CISO in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees

Making sure you're having those conversations up front will be helpful. Once it's out there, it's not so scary or awkward.

Sr. Managing Director in Finance (non-banking), 5,001 - 10,000 employees
- setting up expectations and giving up-front information ( can they still use masks, can they handshake) 
- setting up 1:1s to understand what they have gone through, what is on their mind
- understanding their desire and level of excitement ( are they happy to return? Or prefer WFH)
- arranging happy hours, lunches, team meetings
- making them aware of any office changes, seating arrangements.
- quickly getting over this transition and adjusting to new normal

CTO in Software, 2 - 10 employees
This is probably unhelpful, but we have no intention of returning to in-person working and are staying as 100% work from home.
Director, Security Operations in Telecommunication, 501 - 1,000 employees
I think a good review of the various roles/positions in order to determine which are 1) absolutely needed to be i the office, 2) which would benefit from some close-quarters "in office time" and which can really be done remotely full time with little/no impact and structure policies accordingly.  For the population that comes in full time or partially, ensure proper office set up to support continued distancing (we're not completely out of the woods with all this yet) and hygiene. Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate!  I would warn against the tendency to jump back into work-social functions in large groups (Ex. "Let's all get together outside the office for a team-building event since we're been apart for so long!") since I've watched this happen a few times already and has resulted in wide-spread infections).  
Senior Director of Engineering in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
Revisit the office experience.

Not having everyone back at the office really changes the way people use and feel the office.
Director Of Technology in Education, 51 - 200 employees
We asked all teachers to come back in excess of 2 weeks before we expected students to return to in-person teaching.

1) have staff wear masks
2) practice social distancing, especially in faculty rooms and the canteen
3) practice coming back to campus

We all tend to get tired quickly when wearing masks and need to build up our stamina after months and months of working from home.
MSP & IT Director in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
I think that for many, they be less productive in the office, due to office commute times and office social norms , perhaps even more in person meetings. For those that want/need people back in the office but are offering a hybrid option, might get the best from their workforce. That being said, some people are more productive in an office environment so gaging and understanding your peoples ability to thrive, be mindful and willing to give your workforce the ability to be their best. 
Offering flexibility and early clear communications will make in-person or hybrid working the most successful it can be.
Most importantly, COVID has changed many people and their way of thinking regarding personal safety, and forcing someone back into the office may create tension or discomfort for some. Make sure to value the work each person does so that personal feelings and thoughts about new "norms" can be addressed in a way that works for everyone 

IT Director and Software Producer in Software, 11 - 50 employees
I'll just add in to the "we're re-examining the office experience" voices -- we may not return to the office. Our confidential surveys have shown that >90% of the staff would prefer to work from home permanently.
VP of Engineering in Software, 51 - 200 employees
We have to make sure the cost of travel is worth the experience during the in-person/hybrid working experience. This typical means at the moment to be more social experience.

Another challenge is that many has actually moved much further away from the Central Business District, so this is another challenge needed to be overcome. 

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