Back to the office – what next?

The Covid pandemic has dramatically altered our world, bringing into sharp relief the best and worst of humanity, shattering long-established ideas of “normal” life, and disconnecting us from each other – with far-reaching consequences yet to unfold.

So what do organisations need to consider as and when people start to return to the office? It’s a complex issue. Covid is here to stay and it simply cannot be wished away.

My passion and joy is to help people Be better, Do better and Stay better. Here are 9 observations to think about:

Joyful reunions – expect a positive bounce as people reconnect but do not be disappointed if it doesn’t last. The bubble bursts when natures and habits  (eventually) reassert themselves. How will you react?

Mental health – the pandemic has taken its toll and mental health can no longer be ignored. Are you prepared for its impact in the office?

Stress and anxiety – not everyone is looking forward to returning, and there are legitimate reasons to being anxious. For instance, taking public transport, the proximity of colleagues, a toxic environment – these are just some of the concerns I’ve heard. Are you seeking to make the transition easier or turning a blind eye?

Productivity – during the pandemic many organisations have seen a remarkable increase in productivity from remote working. Going back to “normal” may result in a drop – as time and energy are diverted on other things (some useful, some not).

Work-life balance – many have discovered the revelation of being able to schedule their work around their lives. Whether its medical appointments, caring responsibilities, getting the boiler fixed, or receiving deliveries, life becomes easier to manage. What’s your plan for a better work-life balance?

Flexibility – is a quality that is being appreciated more and more when job seeking. Are you ready for a hybrid world of remote and in-office working? Do you have the willingness and the technology investment to make it successful?

Trust – “if you’re not in the office then you’re not working” is a long-held view by some. In my opinion this is poor leadership and poor management. Will you dare to trust your people to do the right thing and find their way? Some won’t but the chances are they wouldn’t anyway.

Office or bust – these are the options being presented by some on social media. Are your people your own, or “replaceable units of work”? How much do you value them? Your statements send signals to your workforce and could backfire.

Compassion – from leaders is essential because it is about coming together, rebuilding and acknowledging the pain and struggles. Words are important but actions are even more so. How will you demonstrate compassionate leadership?

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