After two years of remote work - and a couple of false starts - it looks like the return to the office is finally upon us. Here’s what to expect and how to make the most of it.
For some, it has been a long two years of working from home, but - for many - the thought of going back to the office is daunting. We’ve gotten used to the flexibility of working remotely and the comfort of our own homes. But, as the pandemic continues to recede, many businesses are starting to gear up for a return to the office.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as we go back:
We’ve all been through a lot these past few years. Be patient with your colleagues as they adjust to being back in the office. Whether the change is a welcome return or a difficult transition, remember that other people might be experiencing the return to the office different to. Be kind to your colleagues and yourself, and be willing to cut people a bit of slack. Be patient and remember the next point on this list…
It can be easy to jump to conclusions when someone is interrupting you a little too much while you’re working, a teammate insists on working from home, or a colleague books a meeting at 4 pm when they know you need to pick up the kids at 4.30. But try to assume good intent and give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt. They’re almost certainly not trying to make your life difficult, they probably just don’t realize it is a problem. This brings me to the next point.
We all have different needs when it comes to working in the office. Be open and honest about what you need in order to be productive and comfortable in the office. It can be easy to get distracted when you’re in the office and you might not have the same focus time as you used to have at home. Make sure to set boundaries by using headphones or taking breaks when you need to. Communicate your preferences and your schedule to your closest colleagues as clearly as possible to avoid any conflict down the line.
Hybrid work will involve its own period of adjustment and we need to give serious thought to how we can make the most of this new way of working. A big challenge for hybrid work can be remembering those who aren’t in the room.
When we were all working remotely it was easy to make sure everyone on the video call was accounted for. We all had the same platform from which to speak. With hybrid, it can be easy for the people in the room to get caught up with what is happening in the room.
We should try to be mindful of those that are joining a meeting remotely. Being the person who brings their remote colleagues into the discussion will bolster your inclusivity credentials. Research has shown that many people thrive on presenting remotely, so video calls are here to stay I’m afraid!
The best thing we can do is figure out the best way to work with them. A good strategy can be to level the playing field using digital tools. Presenting a meeting using an Audience Engagement Platform like Mentimeter helps to give equal weight to the input of everyone in the meeting. Making your meetings more inclusive and transparent.
Some of us have been yearning for the return to the office. While, for others, working from the comfort of their own home was a dream they hoped they would never have to wake from. And, for them, getting back to occupying a hot desk under fluorescent lights is the stuff of nightmares. I mentioned earlier that a return to the office might mean a reduction in the focus time many got when working from home. But remember the flip side. That reduction in focus time means an increase in time spent collaborating with teammates.
There are numerous benefits to working from the office. From increased chase of collaborations across teams/departments and reduced silos. The separation of work and home that can lead to a more healthy work-life balance. And of course to be social with your colleagues - to see them as full human beings rather than square on a screen.
Returning to the office after two years of working from home can be daunting. But by being patient with each other, setting clear boundaries, being inclusive, and assuming good intent, we can all make the transition back to the office a successful one.