Going back to the office – step by step

It now seems like FOGO (fear of going out) has replaced FOMO (fear of missing out) and people are reluctant to return to the workplace even though they are allowed.

As a leader you may be keen to get your team together again to re-build that sense of common purpose that may have diminished while they worked from home.

Future work will combine home and office working. A recent survey undertaken by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that many people would prefer 2-3 days in the office and 2-3 days working from home.

But how can you encourage your team members to WANT to return to the office?

First of all you need to tackle those very real fears. Don’t try to brush them under the carpet or simply reassure. Take action. By involving your team members in assessing risk and putting control measures into place you give them a feeling of control which in itself lowers stress.

The legal minimum requirement is that you inform employees of the outcome of risk assessments but best practice would be to work together on them. Make it about re-building trust and resilience in your workplace, not just following regulations. You don’t need everyone physically in the office to do it – most people will have clear memory of the layout and will be able to identify the hazards in their heads – after all the time they have spent there. Anything more can be done with video.

Next, consider the reasons why people go to a workplace (ask/survey your team if you don’t already know). Socialising is an important reason and let’s face it without pubs, restaurants, gyms, family gatherings and social events, work is the only place where we are actually allowed to socialise! You could bring people into the office perhaps for one to one meetings at first, or maybe a group chat in the car park. This will start to re-build momentum for a future return to the office.

The CMI survey also found that homeworkers expressed concern about career progression and felt they would miss out on opportunities for involvement in projects and personal development activities. In a previous article I explained why appraisals and objective setting are vital for home workers but being in the office reminds leaders of the added value of each individual and provides an opportunity to recognise a job well done.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing happen best in the office. In a previous article I explained how knowledge could be shared remotely however being together is the best way for real sparks to be ignited.

Future workplaces will be where projects are formulated and tasks planned and distributed. The work may well be done at home but success will be celebrated together. This is no longer a crisis situation where its ok to muddle along. A combination of home and office will be our new way of working. As a leader you need to remove the ambiguity that is driving the FOGO and create a compelling vision of your future workplace and work organisation. Change won’t be immediate but if you set out the path and pave it with trust you can lead your team step by step back to the office.

If you would like support in identifying and stating a future vision for your workplace, or indeed help with bringing the vision to life, contact today.

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