During the last few years of a global pandemic, one of the biggest leadership challenges was to find a way to effectively lead teams in a new era of remote work. And now, when most businesses have finally managed to organize a new, remote work model and their employees are comfortable working from home, the question is – how do we lead our teams back to the office? And how do we deal with the resistance that many team members still have when it comes to embracing the new old normal?
Motivate Employees to Return to The Office –
Because They WANT to, Not Because They Have to
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that people do what they WANT to do. That’s why it’s so important to motivate and inspire people back to the office versus requesting or even demanding a return. Coming back together has to be an enticing opportunity to connect with colleagues, work on special projects together, and provide great advancement and mentorship opportunities. Because your teammates need more than a request or invitation to get back to the office – they need inspiration.
Think about the things that your employees would consider a great benefit in coming back to work, like providing paid time off to go to the gym, allowing a flexible work schedule for personal projects or attending a child’s sporting event, etc. If your colleagues can enjoy some of the same advantages they had while working in a remote or hybrid format during the pandemic, the transition back to an office is more seamless. Allowing more flexibility would also show your team members that you genuinely care about them as a person, and not just as a great employee.
Consider Moving to a Hybrid Work Model
Many people have gotten so used to integrating their business and family life that it can be a tough transition to focus on work full time and then family full time again. That being said, some people really do miss that pure focus on work and then family/personal interests, and find the uninterrupted time with each more satisfying.
Although there are many benefits of remote work, there’s no doubt that we still have more empathy for and awareness of our colleagues, and create world-class solutions to challenges, when we are sharing a space and collaborating in groups face to face.
A hybrid work model can be a great solution that combines the best of both worlds – it gives your team more control of their work schedules, which allows them the flexibility to free up time for the important things in their personal life while ensuring that they’re not missing out on the all-important human connection and synergy that we create with our colleagues in person. There’s a certain energy to a collective that just can’t be duplicated by remote.
Encourage Team Spirit to Create the WIN
Team spirit is always generated when we not only work in person but play/hang out in person. People are more apt to come to work to be with their friends versus just their coworkers. When work feels like family, your employees have a lot to look forward to when it comes to getting back to the office.
For example, when it comes to team members getting to know one another outside of their professional capacity, you can plan special teambuilding events, something like a 10k walk where everyone trains together for a month before the event on the weekends, or organize a friendly softball game, family picnic, or inspire teammates to get together for a volunteer project in your community.
Arranging meaningful activities outside of work turns “colleagues” into friends, and it’s our friendships that allow us to give one another much more grace, and that drive us forward to challenging finish lines together. Our goal as leaders should be to encourage employees, and to create a world in which we’re not simply at work WITH each other but FOR each other. Remember, we ultimately work for PEOPLE, not for companies.
Tap Into Your Employee’s WHY
The most important thing for leaders and managers to remember is that everyone has a WHY for working so hard. And it’s not always about money. If leadership can tap into an employee’s WHY and help them get it through coming to work and interacting with their coworkers, that’s a great start. Ie some people want a path forward in the organization, so getting them a mentor or career counselor as a special bonus is a great incentive. Some people are saving for their child’s college education or that special 20th anniversary trip with their spouse, so helping them connect with investment specialists, travel agents, college application specialists, etc, as a bonus for working with your organization will go a loooong way to creating the kind of motivation and loyalty that brings people back to work.
If You Listen Up, Your Team Will Step Up
It’s easy as a leader or manager to focus on all of the crazy challenges we currently face in bringing our remote teams back together and trying to create an inclusive and cohesive culture. Especially when we have so many new people joining the team who have never met face to face. It’s truly more than a full-time job right now. But it’s important to add one more thing to the back-to-the-office checklist for each team member, and that’s creating the time and space to truly listen. Ask your team members about their concerns and how you can help. Ask them what they need in order to make the transition smoother for them, and try to make it happen. And ask them to collaborate with you about realistic expectations and goals for their performance. Pro tip: people will tend to embrace the things that THEY create. So let them help you create their best case scenario for a happy return to the office. And keep communicating along the way. If people feel heard and understood, they will be a much more engaged, loyal, and happy teammate!
There’s no amount of training that would make any person develop a deep loyalty toward an organization if they don’t feel like they’re being heard and understood. Let your team members know that you’re someone who is there for them, who is with them on the same journey to the same finish line, and that you’ve got their back.
Change is the only thing that stays the same in life, right? So hopefully you’re the kind of leader who is able to not just *survive* times of challenge and change, but to embrace those moments as a springboard to future success! This transition is the perfect opportunity for you to create a positive work environment, to foster a more inclusive and connected company culture, to strengthen your team members’ loyalty to you and your organization, and to let your team members know that you’re not just their manager—you’re their teammate for this journey.
What happens over the next few weeks and months, and how your teammates perceive their journey back to the office, is something that your team will remember for a long time. So be the leader that makes your teammates feel heard, cared for, and connected to the team, and you’ll have your inspired superstars back in the office in no time!