As the western world enters its summer months, life is starting to feel normal again for many people. A number of large companies around the world are reopening their offices. Some employees are excited about returning to in-office work, but some employees are missing the flexibility that remote work brought to their lives.
If you’re on LinkedIn, the popular business social network owned by Microsoft, you’re likely seeing stories from employees that have gone back to the office for the first time in a long time. Even at Spike, our offices are open and people are coming in and out. If your organization is among those that are bringing people back for the first time, we want to caution you from thinking things are going back to where they were before. The world has changed. We’ve changed. Our tools have changed. As we move ahead in a post-pandemic world, let’s not forget what we’ve learned over the past two years.
There Is No Going Back to 2019
Digital transformation has been a buzzword in the business world for two decades. However, it did not prepare anyone for forced transformation. If you wondered if your business could operate without printing or signing contracts by hand, you figured it out by now. COVID-19 can be seen as a stress test for our operations and policies.
There are key benefits to the various forms of work, whether in office, hybrid, or fully remote. Regardless of which model your organization implements and sticks with, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each one in order to best set your team up for success.
If you’ve walked back from a fully remote environment, remember some of the things that worked when you moved to a hybrid or fully in-office workplace.
Video meetings work
There’s no substitute for in-person meetings, but we’ve all determined that video meets do work. The tools for video conferencing are mature, bandwidth is plentiful, and people are accustomed to it now. What’s the key takeaway going forward? If someone needs to call into a meeting via a video conference tool – let them. Is someone going to visit a sick family member and work remotely for two weeks? Let them. Is one of your best team members moving to another city, and you’d rather them not go to work for a competitor? Let them work remotely. You should use video meetings to keep your business flexible to changes in the future.
We like to work in person, but we don’t have to 100% of the time
Evolving our mindset on what work is is the key takeaway going forward. We know we can work remotely for periods. We can now all agree that work is what we do instead of where we are. If you have an employee who likes to do part of their job from a coffee shop, why can’t they? For knowledge workers, letting them do that should be encouraged.
We need more deep focus time
One thing that rings true for both remote and in-office workers is they both need more time to focus away from distractions. In-office distractions might be the “pop-ins” to their cubicle, but they might be constant pings in team chat tools for remote employees. Both types of work models need more time to “un-plug” from the conversations and get deep work done.
Before you Bring People Back to Work Full Time, Consider This:
There are benefits to all types of working environments. The future is probably a multitude of options. Companies will figure out what works best for their teams in the months and years to come. If you’ve transitioned back to 100% full-time in the office, there are some things you should consider, though.
Time commuting is time spent not working
If you’ve got employees who previously commuted 30+ minutes to the office, this is time employees probably spent working when remotely. If people enjoy their jobs and are making a difference in their customers’ lives, they were happy to spend the time they’d normally spend commuting getting more work done. You’ll lose that with fully in-office
Time zones are going to matter a lot more
If you are a worldwide company, you’ve already navigated the time zone world when trying to schedule meetings. It wasn’t as big of an ask to ask someone to jump on an early meeting or a later meeting when they were working remotely. If you’re forcing an employee to be at a certain place during the day, they’ll likely be less flexible when it comes to taking after-hours calls and meetings.
It might be time to audit your tech tools
The tools you had before remote work likely didn’t work as well for fully remote. If you’ve yet to audit your tools for collaboration, it might be time to survey your employees to find out what works well, what’s not working, and what they’d like to see. Finding the tools that encourage deep focus, streamline collaboration, and fit in naturally with a work environment is paramount to succeeding in the years to come. For example, are you overusing video meetings? Consider tools like voice messages in an email to enable asynchronous work. Encourage people to turn the camera off if they’ve been in meetings back to back to have a mental break.
2020 and 2021 were the years of remote work. 2022 is going to be the year we settle into the future of work. Work is what we do, not always where we are. Consider what you learned from remote work as your organization moves ahead with your new normal. You learned a lot about how your employees can thrive in all circumstances, so when circumstances change in their lives temporarily or permanently, you know that they’ll rise to meet the challenge. As long as they have the best tools for digital productivity, they’ll be ready for success.
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