5+1 Return-To-The-Workplace Challenges And How To Overcome Them
When the pandemic forced employees to work from home, many were unsettled by this sudden change. They missed in-office interactions and struggled with feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, they soon discovered the upside of remote working: flexibility, freedom, and increased personal time, among others. As a result, many employers are choosing to maintain a remote-working or hybrid model, even as the world returns to normality. But those who want to bring operations back to the base have their work cut out for them. Let’s look at 6 return-to-the-workplace challenges employers face and how they can overcome them.
Hurdles Leaders Have To Overcome For A Balanced Return To The Office
1. Preparing Employees For The Return To The Workplace
Considering that most employees have expressed their desire to continue working remotely, you will have to consider how to propose they return to the workplace. The truth is that a large percentage of employees who have been asked to return to on-site working have quit and turned to remote job opportunities. The ones who stayed had to be reassured that accommodations would be made to make the transition easier while maintaining a significant level of flexibility.
There are some things you can do to convince your employees to make the big return. An obvious first step is to reconsider their compensation to make up for the increased expenses of commuting or moving closer to location. But more importantly, you have to make them feel safe to leave their work-from-home setup. Have open conversations about the physical safety measures you will implement in the workplace to prevent overcrowding and ensure everyone’s health.
2. Ensuring Safety Measures In The Office
Although the worst days of the pandemic are behind us, a new appreciation for health measures has been cultivated among us. In other words, bustling cafeterias, crowded open-space offices, and busy conference rooms are a definite no-go. For employees to feel safe to come into the office every day (or whatever your agreement is), you will have to approach things differently.
For one, social distancing will have to be a priority in your books, which means that not all employees can be in the office at the same time. Implement an office slot booking system to keep track of how many people come in every day. You might also want to rearrange the office by reducing the number of seats in each space. Finally, make sure to provide regular health check-ups so that you can ensure everyone’s health and safety.
3. Addressing The Skills Gap
With the model of work undergoing continuous changes and technology taking over more and more each day, employers are finding themselves dealing with an unprecedented skills gap. Even employees who have worked in the same industry for a long time are finding that demands have transformed significantly. Considering that higher education hasn’t caught up yet, businesses are taking their focus off recruiting and directing it to helping their existing workforce get up to speed with current conditions.
The best solution, if you have found yourself in the same position, is investing in reskilling and upskilling your staff. Creating an abundance of training opportunities for employees encountering a different work environment upon their return to the workplace can significantly increase your company’s chances of keeping up with industry trends and pulling ahead of the competition. Additionally, when employees are encouraged to spend time enriching their knowledge and skills base, they are more motivated to keep learning, and as a result, their performance improves.
4. Implementing An Efficient Hybrid Model
As we already mentioned, a full-time return to the office is an undesirable option for the majority of the workforce. For this reason, most businesses are trying to work out hybrid working models to accomplish their organizational goals while also showing an understanding of their employees’ needs. However, creating a hybrid model that fits this description takes a lot of preparation on your part.
The first challenge you must overcome is facilitating communication and collaboration among your employees, especially when some are in the office and others work remotely. To prevent anyone from feeling left out, implement a communication platform where everyone can work together, regardless of location. This platform can also act as a file-sharing tool that saves and categorizes documents for easy access. Project management tools can also keep everyone up to date with projects and make task delegation easier. Finally, a balanced hybrid model manages to continue cultivating the corporate culture through virtual team events and regular check-ins.
5. Promoting Employee Well-Being
Remote working gave employees control over their professional lives as well as its effect on their personal lives. As a result, they want to maintain the work-life balance they’ve achieved even after they return to the workplace. It is crucial for employers to grant employees this wish, as it has a significant impact on their well-being. Failing to do so will result in decreased levels of employee satisfaction and, ultimately, poor performance and high turnover.
Supporting employee well-being is easier when the workplace has a culture of open communication. Employees voice their concerns, and employers take the necessary measures. So, be honest with your team and ask them what they believe would improve their work-life balance. It could be solidifying boundaries, increasing paid time off, implementing early Fridays, or providing access to mental health resources and professionals. The solutions are countless, and the selection will be based on your staff’s preferences and needs.
Bonus: Eliminating Proximity Bias
A sometimes hidden but very important return-to-the-workplace challenge you need to be wary of is proximity bias. This happens when employers treat employees who are in the office more favorably than those working remotely. For example, they may assign them more projects, training, or development opportunities. Although this behavior is usually unintentional, it can be very isolating for employees who get the short end of the stick.
To prevent falling prey to proximity bias, it’s essential that you first acknowledge the issue. Do some research to identify if anyone feels that they are being treated unfairly due to their working arrangement. If so, take action to standardize operations within your organization so that rewards, training, and communication in general are equally accessible to all employees. You might also want to increase the number of virtual team-building events to increase collaboration between in-office and remote employees.
The modern workplace looks quite different compared to what we were used to in pre-pandemic days. As employees emerge from an exclusively work-from-home setup, a variety of issues emerge for employers who have to welcome their teams back into the office. In this article, we explored 6 of the most common return-to-the-workplace challenges that employers will have to tackle to make this transition successful. Armed with the right technology and an open attitude towards your employees, we are certain that you will be able to make the most of this new normal.