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Artifacts: The Return to Together, Navigating the Minefield

By Lindsey Potzick

“We will be returning to the office in June.” “We are sending you home.” “We are going to 50% capacity.” “You must wear a mask.” “We are taking a hybrid approach.” “We are pushing back our return date.” Sound familiar? It should.

 

According to a Gartner survey of 238 executive leaders, by late August 66% of organizations were delaying office re-openings due to Covid variants. All of this uncertainty has set organizational leaders at the edge of a managerial minefield and coined yet another term, “The Great Wait.”

There is no certain path of victory or one-size-fits all solution to the return (or continuance) of the workplace. We are surely not an authority on community health or disease control, but we are experts in helping organizations evolve. The difference between evolution and revolution is that your core purpose, your innate reason for being, remains the same. When we evolve, our purpose doesn’t change but the way we act on it does. To evolve your future office life, in whatever form it takes, you should ask yourself these questions:

 

  • Why do we exist? 
  • What needs to change in our operations in order to meet our larger business goals, not just respond to current obstacles?
  • What do we need to uphold our culture and enable our people to thrive?

 

The criteria you need to forge the best path for your organization are found nestled where your answers overlap. That intersection of truth informs the direction you need to evolve to stay relevant, and move your brand and business forward.

Photo Credit: Gartner, 2021

Important Considerations to Navigate for Smoother Transitions: 

  • Guidance and mandates of public health authorities 

 

  • Culture 

Culture and morale are critical. They drive productivity, but more importantly, they drive loyalty. “65% of [employers] are struggling to maintain staff morale during WFH, and more than one-third face challenges maintaining company culture.” (SRHM) This problem requires more than a pizza-party solution. Daily operations and how you execute work alongside perks and benefits have to ladder up to your desired culture. It allows employees to feel their purpose in everything they do.

  

  • Technological Capabilities 

New operations and locations demand new technology solutions. Lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates forced a change in communication and technology. Hybrid and return-to-office workplaces will require the same agility. Consider the potential issues or holes in your new user experience. The quirky mishappenings of adjusting communication for remote work in 2020 are exhausting at this point. We need a plan to ensure they don’t persist. Use technology to address these holes accordingly.  

 

  • Needs/wants of your employees

According to a Blackhawk Network survey of 1,560 workers in the U.S., nearly three quarters of respondents working virtually prefer to continue doing so as opposed to working in a physical workplace full or part-time. And 84% of respondents will require some virtual workplace flexibility from their employer in the future.

 

Ask your employees what they need to work for you and what they want for themselves. These shared values will build your new workplace.

This is difficult, but worthy work. There is much to be gained on the other side of the minefield. 

We are in the midst of finding the way through it ourselves. It’s okay to be unsure and we should adjust as new obstacles arise and opportunities present themselves, but as we embark on our new respective work styles and what life in the office will be, it is pivotal to ground that change with the foundation of your purpose. With that, we will always be prepared to evolve. Be flexible, be empathetic, earnestly admit mistakes and move forward. But move forward. The strength of our purpose is determined by its ability to guide us as we adapt. And we are in a period of heightened adaptation. 

 

Most of us are calling this a return to the office. But if we’re truly prepared — armed with the operations and people to grow with a sustained purpose — it’s not a return. It’s an opportunity.

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Molly Baker
Editor
Molly Baker
1 month ago

Love this! Nice work Lindsey! Excellent insights and recommendation.