In recent months, the vaccination rate has increased, COVID-19 cases have decreased, and life is beginning to return to what it was before the pandemic in many locations. As business owners and managers, we are now deciding what post-pandemic work might look like.
We’re seeing some businesses jump too quickly into choosing to return solely to in-office work or going the opposite way and turning in the keys to the building for a permanent remote work situation. Before doing either, take a step back and find the balance in your office setup. Understand that the decision you make will have a significant impact on many aspects of your business, and you should take the time to consider it from multiple angles.
Some businesses that are rushing into their decisions are justifying it based on employee requests. Maybe you’ve heard over and over how hard it is to work from home this year, or in the years leading up to the pandemic, you were met with many requests for flexibility and remote work options. Those are all legitimate concerns or requests, but keep in mind that those voices are not universal. Most likely, you are hearing from the employees who are unhappy with their current situation, and not hearing requests from the ones who are happy with the way things are.
By making a quick decision about whether to return to in-office work or remain remote, you are likely alienating at least some of your employees. Particularly if you are seeking to respond to employee requests in your decision, be sure you hear from all your employees, not just vocal ones, to better understand the impact your decision will have.
Your working location has a lot to do with your corporate culture. Rather than building a culture around your chosen location, develop your corporate culture first, and then see how remote work or office life fits. Ultimately, what employees need most is a safe environment where they feel supported. This goal can potentially be reached in any work location, so it is important to not cling too tightly to defining your culture as only one that can work remotely or only one that could work at the office.
Work location can have an impact on various aspects of corporate culture and identity. For example, what does remote work long-term do for new grads who need informal and formal mentoring? Where does it leave your community involvement? What about your internship program?
While none of these questions mean you cannot become a corporation who works remotely all the time, they are important pieces of your culture that need to be addressed in making the decision.
Finding a balance
In order to balance all the options and interests at stake at this point of the pandemic, flexible arrangements might be the best choice for many companies. There will always be organizations that, by nature of their services, must be an in-person environment. But for those that don’t, there could be hybrid schedules or accommodations for employees with specific needs or requests. Talk to your employees to assess preferences. After establishing the potential schedules and defining how you want your workplace to look, start creating policies to support the plan.
No matter what your final decision, it is worth taking the time to consider your options and what will best fit your organization rather than rushing into a decision. There are many different values and interests at stake when choosing to become a remote workforce or heading fully back into the office. Many businesses will find that there is a flexible way to create the best environment for all their employees.
If you need help navigating the decision process for your company, reach out to the WhyHR team to schedule a consultation.