Tips on Including Your Remote Workers in Return to Office Plans

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The Hybrid Workforce

Hybrid work policies will become the norm for many organizations, and sustaining culture and increasing employee engagement will remain a top priority. Harvard Business School Professor Raj Choudhury says a hybrid workforce is ideal as employees and companies enjoy productivity, flexibility, and opportunities for in-person collaboration1.

We see this trend emerging even now as companies decide where they stand on employee location, relocation, and work from anywhere models. Several large companies have re-entered office life2. A Gartner poll shows that 48% of the workforce will work at least partially remote post-pandemic instead of 30% working remotely before the pandemic3.

Making Data-driven Decisions

Regardless of where employees work from, companies that embrace data-driven and agile methodologies will thrive post-pandemic. Data can serve as the key to unlock insight into employee preferences and attitudes about where and how they work, including how safe they feel in a collaborative office environment.

Data can provide ways for you to engage employees and care for them no matter where they work. Noticing levels of productivity, satisfaction, wellness, and work behaviors is an excellent place to start. During the pandemic, Humana used data to analyze aspects of human resources and remote work preferences4. The healthcare company distributed surveys and sampled employees to keep the pulse on its 46,000 people working from home. The same data-driven process was used to communicate safety measures and protocols for returning to the office, resulting in increased employee confidence.  

Include Everyone in Organizational Culture

So how can companies cater to those working from home or anywhere, and those in a formal office setting at the same time?

Describe How to Engage in the Office

Are vaccines required? How will the area be cleaned, and when? Employees bring various views and comfort levels for social engagement, so clarity from the company on post-COVID office norms is essential. Don’t forget to cover details about what to expect. Will coffee be available, or should employees plan to bring their cup of fuel to the shared facility? Communicate clearly and often with employees about the back-to-office plan.

Invest in Hybrid Tools

A PwC study found that more than 60% of executives expect to spend more in a post-pandemic world on collaboration tools and manager training5. Additionally, half of the executives plan to invest in resources for hybrid workforce structures. These tools include real-time digital signage, messaging apps, conference room scheduling, and desk hoteling tools.

Set Meetings Up for Success

For company meetings and even sub-group meetings, will there be cameras and large screens in the shared space and conference rooms for remote employees, or would you like individuals to go to their desks and log into Zoom regardless of location? Maybe you want to host a fully remote experience even when some people are in the office? What is the best option for your company?

Let Your Workforce Decide

Survey employees regarding preferences and work locations and the degree of flexibility desired. In team meetings, have open conversations about potential scenarios and offer the best social and business connections for everyone.

Get Creative

Add new aspects to company meetings like digital signage and universal slides rotating pre-and post-meeting. Move icebreaker experiences to online formats with virtual games and polls. Incorporate fun elements of the workplace to create shared memories for virtual and in-person employees. 

Adjust Management Processes

Rewrite policies and modernize your employee handbook or wiki by offering updated documents for the company. Plan to strengthen employee communications and training for managers.

Improve Engagement and Retention

Happy employees are more productive and tend to feel more ownership over their work. Team flexibility and trust are essential parts of that ownership, and they contribute to a healthy organization. Employees who experience high levels of engagement see a 25 to 59% decrease in turnover and 41% lower absentee rates compared to their less engaged coworkers6. 

How can your company boost employee engagement and, in turn, reduce burnout and churn? For some industries offering fully remote work expands the applicant pool and results in less turnover, and in other areas of business, the opposite is the case. Do a deep-dive analysis of your company, employees, product, and services to cater to employee needs. Work to listen to employee feedback and remove any barriers that keep them from operating at their very best.

Move to Agile

Large companies like Spotify, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Riot Games have all adopted the agile method. This concept, first introduced in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, took a formerly linear “waterfall” process and adapted it for the modern workplace by making it adaptable, scalable, and strategically complex7. 

Agile workplaces can cater to remote and in-person employees and unite teams with straightforward product development and iteration process. While the agile methodology is used most often in technology settings, it can be applied to various business models and industries, including those in a hybrid workforce.

The post-pandemic work world will include companies who decide to adopt a work-from-anywhere policy, while others will require remote work within a specific geographic region. Still, other companies will require traditional office attendance full or part of the time.

If you consider offering a hybrid format for your teams to operate at their best, make sure you show value and attention to both the in-house employees and those working remotely. Additionally, make sure you have the necessary technology, management, and planning to make it a success and increase overall engagement and satisfaction.  

 

  1. Choudhury, R. (2020). Our work-from-anywhere future: best practices for all-remote organizations. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/11/our-work-from-anywhere-future
  2. Elias, J. (31 March 2021). Google is accelerating partial reopening of offices and putting limits on future of remote work. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/31/google-speeds-partial-office-reopening-and-puts-limits-on-remote-work.html
  3. Baker, M. (8 June 2020). 9 Future of work trends post-COVID-19. Smarter with Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/9-future-of-work-trends-post-covid-19/
  4. Lewis, N. (21 September 2020). HR data analytics in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/hr-data-analytics-time-covid19-pandemic.aspx
  5. Pwc. (12 January 2021). It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done. PwC’s US Remote Work Survey. https://www.pwc.com/us/remotework
  6. Nobes, C. (27 April 2021). 9 Employee engagement statistics that matter in 2021. Achievers. https://www.achievers.com/blog/employee-engagement-statistics/
  7. Relihan, T. (6 July 2018). Agile at scale, explained. MIT Management Sloan School. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/agile-scale-explained