Are You Pushing For 100% Back In the Office? Why That Might Not Be a Good Idea After COVID-19.

After more than a year of virtual and hybrid arrangements, many of us are itching to return to 100% on-site work. It’s understandable; the shift to working remotely during the pandemic was swift, unplanned, and incredibly disruptive. But before you flip the switch and order everyone back into the office, consider these positive factors of hybrid and remote work:

Flexible Schedule

Working remotely allows employees to have control over when and where they work. This is a huge benefit for workers juggling family responsibilities, such as kids, aging parents, and doctor’s appointments. A flexible schedule can also benefit employers, no longer restricted by time zone and geographic area, who can hire from a larger talent pool and offer increased customer service hours.

Decreased Commute

For employees, less time and money spent traveling to work is more time and money saved for other things. For employers, the switch to remote work can mean less money spent on rent, utilities, and office furniture.

Higher Productivity

A two-year Stanford study revealed that working remotely can increase productivity by a full shift per week. Eliminating workplace distractions, interruptions, and politics can make it easier to concentrate on tasks. This increased productivity leads to better employee performance which can produce higher engagement and better results.

Increased Feeling of Safety

Even with health guidelines relaxed, many are afraid to return to in-person work, where they might not have control over when and where they are exposed to risk. A study conducted by Udemy of over 1,000 U.S. employees found that 89% are afraid of COVID-19 in the workplace, and their fears have affected their productivity.

The work from home “pros” cannot be denied and have become a powerful recruitment tool for many employers. Some worry about their polar opposite “cons” being true if workers are forced to return to the office full-time:

  • Restrictive Schedule
  • Increased Commute
  • Lower Productivity
  • Decreased Feeling of Safety

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of communication has never been clearer. Regardless of when the pandemic is declared “over,” the virus isn’t going to vanish. Workers will still get sick and need processes in place to work from home. Videoconferencing, virtual meeting and team-building software continue to evolve to meet the needs of remote employees. Many benefits of working remotely have emerged during these uncertain times.

Perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to return to full-time in-person office work.

Maybe the goal should be to provide the organizational, technological, and emotional support needed to connect remote workers with in-office workers on an even playing field.

When in doubt: Communicate.

Whether in-person or remote, happy employees are productive employees. Putting your people first is good business. Talk to your workers about how they feel about returning to the office. Use their input to create a “back to work plan.” Communicate your plan in clear, written form, and ask for feedback. Address doubts and continue to keep in touch, engage, and motivate your workers.

Winston Churchill once said: “The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.”  No doubt, these are uncertain times. Lead your people through them by considering the benefits of remote work, making a plan that puts your people first, and clearly communicating that plan to every employee.

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