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Goodbye home office? – What companies need to know when returning to the office post pandemic

With infection rates continuing to fall and Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed, employers now no longer have to offer or ask their employees to work from home.

As a result, many employers wish to have their employees back in the office. However one thing is for sure: things will never be the same as they were before the pandemic.

After months of remote working, what do you need to know to ensure a successful start with everybody back on site? What working methods are conceivable?

Many companies have already integrated home office options as a fixed component of their work organisation and offer flexible models instead of the five-day office week. Other companies, who on the other hand have never supported remote work, are glad to have their teams back in the office.

A challenge that businesses should not underestimate is the fact that some teams have only met virtually for 15 months. During that time, team dynamics might have evolved by finding ways to work more independently and efficiently, mostly by skipping social interactions and focusing on tasks only. Returning to the office might lead to a slight decrease of efficiency at first, since a lot of team members will be happy to see each other again and feel the need to catch up socially. Eventually, most of them will get back to their old rate of productivity. A step-by-step plan might help everybody to get back on track.

Step-by-step back to the office routine

  1. In order to ensure a smooth transition, it makes sense to create a step-by-step plan and not have all departments return at once, but rather prioritise and carefully familiarise each department with your hygiene procedures.
  2. Once all departments have returned, invite everybody to a kick-off meeting and inform them of the company’s next steps and goals and about the new work organization, for instance local presence combined with flexible home office or remote working options.
  3. Remind the teams that the office is not only a work place, but also a place for social interaction. Team leaders should support the teams in “getting to know each other” in person again. The goal is to create a positive work environment where employees are happy to come to the office and meet their colleagues. After all, an office is much more than just the place where work is done. It is also a social system, and a factor that should not be underestimated after such a crisis.

Hybrid working is the future

After the pandemic, it is highly likely that companies will think differently about the way they work, as hybrid working looks to become the new normal.

Leaders are facing the challenge of finding a balance between presence and remote working days. In mixed teams of different age groups, the team members might have different needs: while younger team members enjoy working effectively from remote, older employees prefer the office – or even vice versa.

Ultimately, workplaces should enable employees to be flexible regarding their work location, depending on their particular tasks and give them the opportunity to work as efficiently as possible. When it comes down to the question of yes or no regarding home office and mobile working, it should be: yes and no. The right mix makes all the difference.

To find out more about hybrid working, and many other topics we discuss, take a look at our blogs section.