We’re finally moving into a post-pandemic world. Events that had been canceled or put on hold for nearly two years are once again moving forward. Travel is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. Social gatherings are once again occurring without fear of becoming “super spreader events.” Many companies have begun bringing employees back into the office.
We are starting to resume normal life, but it is more of a “new normal” than reverting to pre-pandemic life. The past couple of years have provided many people with an extended moment of self-reflection, causing them to re-evaluate what is important to them. As employers bring their team back to the office, it’s critical to account for these shifts in mentality and priorities to avoid a negative impact on employee morale.
Many Workers Are Reporting a Dip in Morale After Returning to the Office
Simply expecting your employees to go back to the office and resume a pre-pandemic work environment isn’t realistic. There is a growing body of research that many workers are experiencing a drop in morale after being brought back to the office.
According to Scientific American, surveys conducted of thousands of employees regarding their preferences for ending remote work yielded the following conclusions:
75% of respondents expressed a preference for working remotely at least half time
25-33% of respondents preferred to work remotely full time
40-55% of respondents indicated they’d quit their job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least half time
Your Approach to Returning to the Office Will Determine the Impact on Employee Morale
Employers who plan on requiring their team to return to the office must acknowledge the potential for this decision to negatively impact morale. Simply expecting a return to the office to go smoothly and be embraced by employees is unrealistic in light of the research that has been conducted. In order to prevent a devastating drop in employee morale, it’s critical to make this transition in a thoughtful manner that addresses the needs and concerns of employees.
The following steps can help you create better buy-in from your team and help maintain high morale:
Acknowledge the impact of this change on employees’ lives – Many workers have adjusted to a remote working lifestyle and prefer the flexibility it affords them. Returning to the office represents another significant adjustment shortly after having to adapt to remote work. Acknowledge the impact of this decision, and make employees feel appreciated for their efforts over the past few years. Highlight productivity, innovations, awards and other actions which have contributed to company success during the pandemic.
Establish new policies that promote employee well-being – It’s important to make sure employees know you care about their well-being, especially when making a policy decision that many view as detracting from their quality of life. Engage your team in a discussion of the types of policies they believe will make returning to the office a rewarding experience. Whether this is greater flexibility in work hours, more generous PTO, an increase in mental health benefits or other perks which your team values, implementing policies that improve their well-being will help boost morale during the transition back to the office.
Provide opportunities to create positive impact in the world – The pandemic has caused many workers to increasingly value working for companies that make a positive impact in the world. Revisit your company vision and look for opportunities to create this impact with the work you do. This will provide your employees with a more rewarding and fulfilling work experience which will boost their morale and give them a greater reason to look forward to braving the commute to the office each day.
Consider a hybrid working model – If your team has demonstrated an ability to be highly productive and successful from home, it will be hard to sell them on the idea that they need to be in the office full time in order to be successful moving forward. Consider adopting a hybrid work model that provides employees with the benefits and flexibility associated with remote work for part of the week, while also leveraging the benefits of in-person time for the rest of the week.
Establish new team rituals – The daily work routine will undoubtedly change as employees transition back to the office. You can make this transition smoother by establishing new rituals which promote team building and coworker camaraderie. Make sure you engage your team and get their input on these new rituals so that they will be perceived as authentic.
Create space uninterrupted deep work – For many employees, remote work offered a respite from the myriad distractions present in an office environment, allowing them to spend more time doing their job without interruptions. These distractions will once again creep back into daily work life as part of the transition back to the office. Providing your team with the ability to carve out time to work uninterrupted will help them maintain the levels of productivity they’ve grown accustomed to at home.
PassioHR Can Help You Navigate Your Transition Back to the Office
Getting the transition to the office right is critical to maintaining employee morale. Working with an HR consultant who has experience handling these transitions can help you set your team up for success. At PassioHR, we have you covered.
Our Elevated Engagement Plus™ Approach ensures your needs drive the process every step of the way. We’ll take the time to learn about your unique company culture and workforce dynamic in order to identify the ideal approach to maintain optimal employee engagement and morale during your transition back to the office. We’ll help you implement smart policies that set your team up for success, improve employee buy-in to this challenging transition, and make them feel valued throughout the process.