If your organization’s “return to the workplace” considerations
and preparations are limited to just those employees who were asked to work
from home at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are missing an
opportunity to lead meaningful cultural change.
The latest research from the Institute for Corporate
Productivity (i4cp) found that among most larger organizations surveyed (those
employing >1,000), return to the workplace planning efforts are largely
focused on the faction of their workforces required to work remotely due to
stay-at-home orders, rather than all employees.
Most organizations that are preparing their workers to
return to the workplace are doing all the right things—creating playbooks or
guides (80%), providing training on new approaches to safety measures (74%),
facilitating town hall conversations that allow for Q&A (49%), and
upskilling their leaders so that they can better guide their teams through the
transition and challenges ahead (42%).
While half of the larger employers surveyed said that they are
including all employees in their reboarding offerings, 43% said that such
efforts are primarily focused on the work-from-home group.
This fails to acknowledge that the changes we have all
experienced (and will continue to) affect everyone—not simply those who were
asked to work remotely for a period of time. And potentially leaving others out
of what could be a deeper, more meaningful conversation about the organization
and what it aspires to be is a lost opportunity to bring everyone into a
conversation about moving forward.
Last week’s survey found that return-to-the-workplace
preparations are led by HR in most organizations, usually in concert with a
multidisciplinary task force or formal response team that typically includes
representatives across functions and geographies from senior leadership,
general counsel, facilities, corporate communications, etc.
A combined 62% of larger organizations are in the process of
active planning or have already conducted a reboarding process to prepare
employees who are returning to the workplace.
For organizations still in the early planning stages, elements
should include a mechanism to continuously gather employee sentiment about
return to the office needs and preferences, assessing the availability of local
external supports (schools/child care services, public transportation, etc.)
and balancing all of that with compliance concerns—i4cp’s Return
to the Workplace Checklist can help.