After this whirlwind of over a year, it looks like normalcy is finally on the way. But, after a year of working from home, the transition back to the office after working remotely will be hard. Some members of your team are probably eager to get back, and some members are dreading it. Not to mention having to switch out the sweatpants for dress pants. As a manager, it will be difficult to keep everyone on the same page and keep employee morale high. This is why we have created a list of 10 tips to help your team transition back to the office after working remotely.
Plan and Prepare
Preparing for your return back to the office after working remotely will help reduce your team’s stress. With 54% of workers feeling anxious for their return to work, this will be crucial in maintaining morale. Before you return to the office, send an email out that details any new protocols, updates, and support. This will include health guidelines that will be put into place, like how often shared bathrooms, kitchen areas, and other high traffic areas will be cleaned, social distancing, mask, and vaccine protocols. Also included in the email should be resources for support. Whether it be HR, management, or online resources, showing that you care about the well-being of your team will make them feel more comfortable. To end the email, say you are open to any tips to make the transition easier, and you are happy to answer any questions your team may have. After the email, you will want to ensure the office is ready. This could include stocking up on cleaning products, setting up hand sanitizer stations, and supplying resources. The last thing that I would suggest is leaving a treat, gift card, or something else that will break the tension of returning to the office.
Get Your Team’s Opinions
Unfortunately, not everyone is excited to get back to the office. Before your return date, set up one-on-one video calls, and ask everyone’s honest opinion on returning. If someone is experiencing a lot of stress, say they can come in on their own terms. If a few members want to permanently work from home, allow that as well (as long as they can attend meetings, or come into the office if needed). Plus, your team might be worried about leaving their pets (we all know someone who got a quarantine puppy!). In this case, you can transition to a dog-friendly office. In fact, offices that allow dogs are generally happier, more productive, and less stressed!
The best way to ease your team’s stress is to take it one step at a time. Once you meet with your team, you can set up a timeframe that you would like to return to the office. This might not be the exact date that we can return, and that’s okay. A staggered return will give employees time to adjust to the change, at their own pace. Additionally, you can offer hybrid options, where your team has the option to work at home or the office. This option can be really helpful to anyone who has kids.
Hosting coffee chats over a video call has become a great way to talk casually to your team. Whether you are working from home or the office, this is a great trend that should continue. Far too often employees are focused on their job, and not getting to know their coworkers. But, building relationships is another great way to relieve stress, and the team will be able to support each other (not everyone wants to confide in a manager!). Casual coffee chats will be great to continue at the office but will also help your employees who are still working virtually feel connected.
Manage Your Expectations
As a manager, it can be really difficult to have your team not giving their 100%. But in the first few weeks of returning to work, give your team a little slack. Also, in the first month or two after returning you should be communicating with your team and ask if there is anything you can do, continue, or change to make the transition as easy as possible. In addition, a lot of aspects of your business will not return to how it was pre-pandemic. Change is good, and you will be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t anymore.
Celebrate the Little Things
To keep employee morale high, ensure you are congratulating and encouraging your team. After the first week back, have a Friday morning meeting where you bring in coffee and donuts. At this meeting, ask everyone how they thought their first week went, to share their wins, and what they want to work on moving forward. In addition, make sure to tell everyone that they are doing a good job. Encouragement will keep your team happy and make them feel like a valued part of the team.
There are a few types of goals that can be set regarding the return to work. The first would be when everyone is expecting to return to the office. This goal can be different for everyone, and you should ask if there is anything you can do to help everyone meet their goal. The next goal your team should set is based on the business. Setting trackable goals will keep your team motivated. For example, your team could set monetary, service, or performance goals. Everyone (including management) should set their own goals, a timeline, and how they are going to achieve their goals.
Team building has always been an important part of any successful business. But, over the past year it has been swept under the rug at a lot of businesses. Team building is important because it enables employees to learn from one another and get the topic off of COVID-19. Participating in fun and creative activities will energize your team and brighten their day. Check out this list of 32 Team Building Games Your Whole Team Will Love. A lot of these activities can include your virtual and in-person team members, so everyone can feel like a part of the team!
Use Communication Technology
With some of your employees working at the office and some working from home, communication can get tricky. Luckily there are a few communication software out there to help. My favorite to use is Slack. Slack is messaging software that can be downloaded to your computer and phone. It makes it easy for your team to stay on the same page and make decisions faster by bringing all of your work communications into one place. You can chat, share documents, photos, and more, all in one place. The next software I would recommend is Zoom. You’ve probably heard of Zoom by now, as they have over 500,000 business customers. Zoom can be used for more than just video calls. It can be used for webinars, phone calls, and can provide a workspace for your employees to collaborate in. The final software that I want to share is GoToMeeting. It is a cloud-based platform that is used to host web conferences. It can be downloaded to your phone, computer, or you can use the website. Best of all, you don’t need an account to attend meetings. GoToMeeting is similar to Zoom, but it works better for large groups of up to 3,000 participants. If you are a large corporation, I highly recommend GoToMeeting.
If you are hesitant to return to work, share your vulnerability with your team. Whether you are worried about your family, getting back into your routine, or you’re just stressed out in these crazy times, let your team know. This will give them the opportunity to support you, instead of you always supporting them. Communication goes both ways! Sometimes managers have a hard time expressing emotion while maintaining professionalism, but this will help your team learn where you’re coming from and everyone can benefit from it.
No matter what type of business you are, and how you are handling the transition back to the office after working remotely, it’s going to be hard. Just remember to do your best and keep lines of communication open. If your team needs a laugh, check out 23 Marketing Jokes to Brighten Up Your Day. We hope you found some helpful tips to make your transition back to the office after working remotely as seamless as possible!