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Will Your Return to Work Plan Actually Work?

Don’t blame covid.

The real reason people don’t want to return to work is simple.

It’s better (for them) at home. Or so they think.

Depending on who you ask, COVID may or may not be behind us. But people are still reluctant to go to the office. Remote or hybrid is the new normal, and if anyone does return to work, everyone else is almost never there at the same time.

What does this mean for teams who need to communicate and collaborate effectively and efficiently? What tools (besides Slack and Zoom) are there that can help? And is virtual the new reality forever? Or just for now?

Working from home is the ultimate convenience. No more commuting. No more dressing up (at least from the waist down). Way more time for yourself, friends, and family. Flextime. And of course, dangerously easy access to the fridge. These are just some of the reasons why employees don’t want to come back to the office.

The workweek as we knew it, is over.

People don’t sit next to each other anymore. They don’t run into each other in the hallway, or the lift, or the kitchen, or anywhere. When people work remotely there’s little or no social adhesion, and this can adversely affect the level of cooperation people will give each other and how they think about (or don’t think about) each other.

Teams are dispersed and disconnected.

When everybody is working in isolation how can staff build greater awareness of the other people they need to do their job – and get better at it? Colleagues and coworkers may be sitting in another city, state, or even country. They might be essential to getting things done, but they are essentially invisible. No more quick questions, no more mentoring, no more connecting over anything but the task at hand.

Ryan, Senior Manager, Bain & Co.

Human connection is essentially lost.

At the start of the pandemic, when your existing employees all went their own way, they knew each other. They had a rapport, history, and trust. They may have since become estranged over time, but they still know each other. So for a little while, it seemed like this whole #WFH experiment was going to work.

But then the “Great Resignation” lead to a not-so-great situation where people are hired remotely, inducted remotely, and work with people they’ve never met, remotely. They might all stare at each other on a video call, but they don’t know anything about the people they are meant to be working with. And this can create all sorts of problems you might not see since you’re probably working remotely too.

Creating psychological safety is key.

Working from home may suit some people, but others, especially those new hires, may soon encounter a wide range of emotional issues. And one of the biggest might be around asking for help.

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In an office environment, it’s easy for someone to tell when you’re not busy, choose their moment, and ask you a question or to quickly review something. It’s effortless and efficient and feels normal.

But now, if they’re at home and have a problem, they have to use email, Slack, or phone. And they become exposed. They worry they might be intruding. They wonder if they shouldn’t have needed help in the first place.

It’s not a casual thing anymore. This can lead to a feeling that they not meeting expectations and without those small acts of appreciation and approval that happen organically in an office, they might never know otherwise.

What this new way of working requires from people in general, and especially those who are working remotely from their management team, is a way to develop greater levels of confidence. To reach out and take initiative. To take risks. And a willingness to be more vulnerable.

Management needs to be more tolerant of those actions and look at them for what they are because this new way of working changes the dynamic for them as well. Everyone is affected. Trust is key and it goes both ways.

Team building is more important now than ever before.

If you’re asking people to return to work one, two, or even five days a week, then you may want to consider a return-to-work program for how to introduce new people and create an ensemble mindset across the entire team. There are tools and techniques we can use to help build confidence, situational awareness, empathy, and understanding among your team – no matter where they work from.

When people do return to work, they need to see something that wasn’t there before. And it takes more than beanbags, free food, happy hours, or a ping-pong table.

They need to see a team. Their team.

As that classic motivational poster says:

“We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we respect, trust, and care for each other.”

So how do you engender trust, corporation, and confidence in a group of people who, as far as they know, only have a Slack channel in common?

What are your return to work plans?

Assuming you have some, and even if you don’t, a PowerProv workshop can help.

We recognize the new challenges businesses like yours are facing. Our unique curriculum is designed to help management and employees move forward together, armed with new tools and techniques for communication, collaboration – and trust.

Nobody in Australia does what we do, the way we do it. If you look at our homepage, you’ll see we’ve worked with companies big and small and we’d love to work with you next.

As long as you don’t have Covid.

Learn more about PowerProv workshops

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