Last night I met with a bunch of executives & we had an interesting conversation about bringing people back into the office. I actually loved the dialogue. We talked about people who gamed the system during COVID. We agreed that the majority of our staff worked very hard and proved that they could be trusted to work from home. We also discussed how many employees didn't have a choice. They HAD to leave their homes, go into work & take care of their customers, face-to-face, every day for the last 16 months.
So NOW what? Honestly, the group was divided. Do we need to work in the same space? Do we have to set a deadline for staff to return to the office? Should we have a policy? My own opinion? I don't think there is an easy or one size fits all answer. And maybe that's the real issue.
The easy thing to do is to decide on a policy & have everyone align. That's what many companies are doing. "On this date, everyone will return to the office a minimum of 4 days a week. Oh, & be sure to reserve your desk ahead of time. There are not enough desks for everyone."
Maybe there is a better way...
Let's start here: Do you know who your performers are? I'm betting you do. These are the people you can count on, the individuals that get things done. These are the employees that you don't worry about where they are or what they are doing. Why? Because historically they have taken care of business. They have earned your trust. If that's true -- AND IF these individuals have jobs that allow for flexibility -- why wouldn't we let THEM determine where or when they work... inside of some basic parameters. For instance: With freedom comes responsibility and employee who elect to work from home are also expected to:
Attend regularly scheduled department meetings, customer-facing meetings, ideal generation, and decision-making meetings where full participation is needed
Make themselves available when requested
Maintain relationships with their peers
Expand their internal network
Make work results a priority
Attend business social functions
Next question: Do you know who your slackers are? I bet you do! Your slackers -- well, they HAVE NOT earned the privilege of flexibility. AND, until they do -- they are required to work in the office -- all day, every day. (Ouch. That would change MY behavior pretty quickly.)
Truly, I do think there is a way to have your cake & eat it too... There ARE reasons for being together. As an organization, we need to identify these situations & tell folks they must be there. Attendance is required. There ARE also reasons to work from home. If an employee has demonstrated that they can meet organizational standards -- regardless of where they are working -- then give these folks flexibility and trust that they will continue to get their work done! If you are unwilling to differentiate between performers and slackers you may end up perpetuating the #BigShift#greatresignation
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