Hybrid Working

Critical Leadership Mindset in the "Back to the Office" Transition

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | May 31, 2021
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In the last year, many business employees have had to adjust to working from home, juggling their personal lives with their professional ones. With things starting to come under control and companies looking at life post-pandemic, there is a focus on back-to-office leadership mistakes, which can be costly to the employees and the business as a whole. 

Why Leadership Matters with Back to Work?

Leadership matters

Given that many employees are making the transition back to the office, leaders need to emerge with skills that are going to support the workforce in the transition while creating normalcy amongst people who have been away from a typical work environment. There is a shift for many in management to develop a return to office guide for leaders that outlines the need for empathy, flexibility, communication, and trust between leadership and employees. 

Just as there was a learning curve with working from home, there should be a learning curve with a return to the office. For some, this may include adapting to some employees preferring or requesting to work remotely, while for others, it is going to be about adjusting to time management in the office. 

Leaders who can embrace the reality that the future may necessitate a hybrid approach are going to yield more successful results than leaders who choose not to embrace change and adaptability. 

hybrid

How can leadership be defined? A leader who is going to succeed during this back to work transition is going to display the following: 

  • Engagement – Leaders understand that their employees have been away from the office for more than a year. Therefore, it’s essential to get them to not only buy into returning, but also to feel comfortable about the corporate decision for a back to work culture.
  • Reliability – It is essential now more than ever that leaders are reliable. Employees are going to require support, even if that means nothing more than having the proper office chairs and equipment upon their return to the office.
  • Communication – Whether it is communicating what the corporation wants to the employees or simply talking with workers to see how they are, communication is going to be essential. Having an absence of this trait is one common back-to-office leadership mistake that companies make.
  • Empathy – Next to having the proper communication style and technique, empathy is going to be just as important. Many return-to-work guides for leaders highlight the importance of empathy as many employees are going to be adapting to life back in the office, whether it is full-time or not.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability for Future Change – Back to the office does not mean that things are going to go back to normal. There are going to be numerous learning curves taking place that may challenge the current workflow or leadership style. For this important reason, many organizations and businesses are highlighting this in their return to office guide for each leader.

Many other traits are going to lend themselves to a successful back-to-office transition. Identifying those that are necessary and integrating them into the current leadership style is where the true challenge emerges.

What Are Employee and Business Needs to Consider for Back to Work? 

A lot of things can change in a year and it may cause back-to-office leadership mistakes. Suppose your business underwent a significant change to how it supports both employees and clients. In that case, this could have an impact on the requirements for going back to work. It can affect what office space is available and the equipment that employees have access to.

Equipment that was once available may not be due to their being used at the home sites of individuals, which may necessitate leaders resorting to bulk office furniture orders. 

On top of ensuring that the business provides the necessary equipment, there may be a push towards having ergonomically friendly equipment. Why? Many may have adapted to their home office or experienced a lack of proper ergonomic support; therefore, they may be having pain and discomfort now. Going back to the office could result in their attaining the appropriate equipment that can help rectify those issues. 

The use of a standing desk can not only help one’s back, but it can also help with focus and productivity. Leaders can consider splurging on such a purchase to help get their teams back to work successfully.

How to Manage Social Distancing in the Workplace

Social distancing

On top of ensuring that employees have the necessary office equipment for the back to office transition, leaders are going to have to manage social distancing within the workplace. It is one of the most important return to office guides for leaders. Depending on the city and state policies, there may be requirements and practices in place that legally require businesses, employers, and leaders to practice social distancing. 

One way of managing social distancing in the workplace is using reminders on the walls and on the floor. This can include decals showing what two feet is or explaining the importance of social distancing. 

How to Manage Workspace Optimization

Manage workspace optimisation

Just as managing social distancing is essential, understanding how this impacts workplace optimization is necessary because it needs to be considered. Workplace optimization is going to take into consideration: 

  • Start and end times for employees.
  • Task tracking for both in-person and virtual employees. 
  • Communication applications that allow for efficient engagement for both in-person and virtual employees. 
  • Shared space or hoteling stations with digital transformation that would enable employees to work from home and in the office on an alternating schedule.

Leaders want to ensure the best back-to-office transition, which is why it is going to require them to strategize and come up with the best way to optimize the workplace given the present circumstances. 

The Pros and Cons of a Back to the Office Transition

Office transition

Transitioning back to the office has both pros and cons. Here are some things leaders need to be aware of regarding the change and avoid back-to-office leadership mistakes. 

Pros

  • Business sustainability.
  • Employee productivity increased. 
  • Employee and leadership relationship strengthened. 

Cons

  • Health and safety concerns. 
  • Commute to and from work. 
  • Increased costs (parking, lunches, daycare, etc.)

It can be hard to know whether or not the transition is going to be positively received or not; however, it is essential to consider all angles to ensure the best productivity! 

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