Returning to the office - Have you got the right balance?

Finding the balance between what is suitable for your people and what business as usual might look like isn’t an easy task.

Many people have assumed that remote working is here to stay. We have seen houses in the countryside grow in demand as people flock to more peaceful pastures far from cramped city living.

So strong is the belief that the world of work has fundamentally changed that a study conducted by Robert Half International found that 1 in 3 workers may quit if they were required to return to the office full time.

But many industry leaders have been calling for a complete return to the office. David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, has stated that he believes: “It is not a new normal” and wants a return to in office working as soon as possible, in large part to protect the “innovative, collaborative apprentice culture”, which Goldmans have worked hard to develop for their 3000 graduates employed a year.

Finding the balance between what is suitable for your people and what business as usual might look like isn’t an easy task. But starting to understand why opinions are so diverse will help you prepare for a future work environment that may look more different than you anticipated.

Do you know what your people want?

We don’t yet know what the post-pandemic work environment looks like. But the feelings of your people have certainly changed. A survey by CHG Healthcare found that only 9% of workers wanted to return to the office a full five days a week. The majority, 54%, were more interested in a hybrid working environment.

There was no playbook available to any business when we entered into this pandemic, and there is no defined one that will help you navigate out. But if you listen to your people and lead by inspiring them, you won’t go wrong.

Recognise that each person will be different, and the best solution might be to create a new way of working. Perhaps a team member needs space for quiet that they can’t get at home. Maybe they relish the time not travelling to the office and use it to think of innovative ideas.

Once you have taken the time to ask your people how they want to work and think about what they need, the best strategy for returning to the office will become clearer.

Hybrid - what should you consider?

One of the starting points to a new hybrid working environment is to recognise that while every individual is different, we are at the same time remarkably similar. Take these two opinions given in an interview about returning to work:

“The thing working from home has shown me is how the people I work with are not my friends. They are just a group of people we are forced to spend time and get along with. Now that I am working at home, I get to spend more time with my family and real friends.”

“I can’t wait to get back to the office. I love my colleagues and can’t wait to see them in the flesh. I’m really looking forward to after-work drinks again. Friday team building was the highlight of the week!”

Two contrasting opinions on the working environment but there is one clear similarity. Both people interviewed are looking for human connection.

Human connection is a crucial ingredient for any of us to flourish. As we move toward a hybrid work environment, it will become more important to invest more of your time and resources in encouraging your people to connect.

You could plan more team gatherings. You could encourage homeworkers to be more flexible, guiding them toward understanding that the connections they make with their colleagues in person will help their own work and shape the company culture.

Think about what you can offer your team members. Whatever their attitude to working from home or an office, you will need to take the time to rebuild relationships and reform your culture around a new system of working.

The good news is that a blended approach works perfectly. Through our work in training and our expertise have found that a blended approach to learning works best. Giving learning the right amount of individual home learning and the perfect balance of in-person has meant that outcomes from learning are optimised. Learning is no different to working productively.

When you have talked to and understand the needs of your people, you will quickly find your perfect balance in a hybrid working environment.