After months of working from home, it’s safe to say that, generally speaking, employees now fall into one of two buckets. There are those who love working from home and would happily make it a permanent thing. And there are those who are totally over working from home and are ready to get back to the office ASAP (full disclosure: I fall solidly into that second bucket).
While some organizations have already stated that their employees will be working from home until at least 2021 (or possibly forever, if you work at Facebook, Twitter, etc.), it’s likely that most companies will have some sort of hybrid reopening. Whether providing the option to work from home on certain days of the week, or exploring new office space approaches like the hub-and-spoke model, companies are looking at many different ways to safely allow employees to return to work.
So with that in mind, how can you balance the differing needs and preferences of these two different employee mindsets? Here are some tips.
For those who love working from home and don’t want to come back:
Define your policy –If you’re getting ready to reopen, decide what your policy is on returning to the office vs. continuing to work from home, and clearly articulate it. Is returning optional? If not, will exceptions be made for certain circumstances, and what are they? If you’re asking everyone to return full-time, explain why you feel it’s important to do so, and be prepared with a response for those who push back and don’t want to return.
Understand their reasoning – Be understanding of why people don’t want to come back. Is it about convenience (e.g., lack of commute, easier to juggle virtual learning or childcare challenges, etc.), or do they still feel unsafe traveling to or being in the office? If it’s the former, again, make sure you have a clear stance, and try to be empathetic and flexible. If it’s the latter, communicate what you’re doing to make sure they’ll feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
Think long-term – If you are going to let people work from home indefinitely, make sure you think about what this means in the long-term. The pandemic forced us to think quickly about short-term needs, but if working from home is going to be indefinite, what operational changes are needed to make it successful for the employee and the company?
For those who don’t like working from home and want to come back:
Improve their work from home experience – If you aren’t ready to let people back in the office, think about ways you can make working from home a better experience for these employees. Can you help them improve their home office set-up by providing them with a better desk or chair? Or, can you help them find alternative workspace options near them, such as a WeWork space, until the office reopens?
Address mental health issues – Being in the house 24/7 can definitely take a toll on your mental health (I’m someone who needs that separation between work and home, so I’ve personally struggled with this). Working from home can be very isolating too, especially for employees who live alone. Make sure you’re supporting employees’ mental health, and encourage them to take the time they need to take care of themselves.
Put safety first – If you are ready to let employees back in the office, make sure you’re putting policies and practices in place to keep everyone safe. Some examples include tracking those coming and going; changing the layout as needed to keep people socially distanced; providing hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to each employee; and putting up signage reminding people to take precautions.