As we begin the transition back to the workplace, many will raise the question to what extent will our pre-pandemic office return? During this transitional period there will undoubtably be variation across the workforce between those eager to ‘return to normal’ and those concerned about another upsurge in coronavirus cases. These differing approaches can be categorized into three personas: The Returner, the Worrier, and the Remainer.
Returners will be extremely enthusiastic about being back in the office for numerous reasons. Working remotely may not have been successful for them due to the availability of adequate facilities and a lack of collaborative opportunities. Returners may be craving the socialisation which is facilitated by a physical presence in the office. Furthermore, for many young professionals and graduates, the office environment provides an unparalleled opportunity to begin their careers by absorbing a wealth of knowledge from their peers.
Whilst encouraging a safe transition back to the office for those who wish to do so we must be mindful of the concerns of the Worriers and views of Remainers who undoubtably nurture a paralleled work ethic but maintain hesitancy in returning to the workplace. With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and the reopening of society, the worries about future waves of covid are not unreasonable. Like the Returners, the Worriers are eager to re-engage face-to-face with their colleagues and friends, to socialize, collaborate and regain a bit of ‘normality’, but are concerned about a mass return to the office evoking another wave in the pandemic. The approach in managing this group of team members will vastly differ from that of the Returner. Each person’s hesitancy will vary, and it is necessary to have honest, open, and flexible discussions around what will work for each individual. As our working models transition once again, we are all discovering which working practices will provide the best outcome for both employer and employee.
Remainers have utilized the pandemic and in some cases proven they can work efficiently, remotely. It is likely they will want to continue with this working dynamic following a potential mass return to the office. Arguably, if Remainers have successfully worked remotely for some time now there is cause to suggest that this practice could continue. Perhaps now is the time to consider the development of shared remote working locations in and around our cities.
What works best with regard to the level of hybrid working practices will vary across industries and individual companies. It may be determined by working practices or more simply by staff preference. This is where flexibility in dialogue and the consequential outcome of that conversation will be key. Be prepared, it is likely this conversation will continue to evolve.
We must remain mindful that rigidity towards working models has the potential to negatively impact staff retention and may hinder the attraction of new talent to a firm. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us is that many people can effectively work and thrive from remote working locations. Some offices have already been practicing hybrid working models and incorporated increasing amounts of agile settings into their workspaces. The pandemic has invited us all to consider more flexible working strategies not just within our workplace but within our working patterns. Now really is the time above any other to sit as a team and talk openly about what is going to work for everyone. One thing is for certain, there will not be a one size fits all approach and finding the best solution for your team’s personas is the key for success.