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Are you ready to return to the office?

July 29, 2021
The conversations about work are dominated by the question of when will we return to the office? Some employees are ready now, others would rather not, and there are those who never had a choice. Who makes this decision?

The final say is ultimately made by the owner of the company. What options do you have if your preference is different from the company’s directive? Here are some questions to consider.

Who cares?! In general, when there has been an accident, human nature will likely have us fix the accident to pre-accident condition. If we are asked to clean up our desk or room, we put things back into their “spots.” For some, the conversation now about returning to the office is not “if” but “when,” as if it’s a foregone conclusion. Why should that be the default?

Why not treat this question as an opportunity? The opportunity is to look for improvements, innovations. Some people working from home embraced the change. They enjoyed control of their environment, the elimination of the commute, and the change in wardrobe for example. These people made efforts to create some form of formal space for their work. There were also new rules adopted by members of the family to support each other in schoolwork and office work to coexist. For these people the benefits outweighed the issues.

There were others who viewed this as temporary. They may have settled on the kitchen table, using a folding chair, and for the last 16 months acted like this was temporary. In their minds work is done at the office and I will be back there soon. It was a year of inconvenience and temporary solutions which added their own stress.

There is opportunity in Change

Now these two people are being told return to the office is coming this Fall. The second person is relieved and is counting the days to return. Finally, we can get back to normal, the familiar, the way we have always done this.

For the other person who embraced working from home, their anxiety is starting to build. They are happy with the current arrangement and dreading that we will return to punching the clock, and attending meetings that get in the way of getting things done, ie business as was usual.

As an employer, you need to be aware of these differences for you too, can consider how the next transition will work. We have more time to consider the options for the return than we had for the stay-at-home order. Are you going to approach this by putting things back to the way they were in 2019 or look for what makes sense now?

As an employee, the same question holds for you. What in the past year is worth keeping and what is the business justification? If you want to do something different you will need to build the business reason to get the exception.

For some people, it never occurred to them, and now that they see the opportunity, will now start to consider the options.

For everyone, be aware of the opportunity change can provide. For those with plans, this could be the opportunity to act on them. There are others who now have the seed planted but not ready to act who need time to develop the plan. And lastly there could be people not quite sure how to take the next step. Those individuals with plans are best positioned to take advantage of changes. Do you have plans or is it time to develop some?