“Returning” to Work

Returning to Work

Topic of the Moment: Returning to Work

Many organizations are currently in the midst of “return to work” planning. After a year of a pandemic-related workarounds,  people are brainstorming about how to, once again, share space with colleagues and become liberated from endless hours on Zoom. 

While it’s wonderful that we can have these discussions (three cheers for vaccines!), it’s likely that some people on your team are thinking, “Return to work? What do you think I’ve been doing for the last 12 months?!” or “I haven’t been around another person in a year. Humans now scare me and I can’t even begin to think about this.”

The last year has been draining for each of us in different ways. When people are tired and wrung out, it’s important to remember that relaxed, deliberate discussions are vital to keeping working relationships strong while you’re trying to create new ways of doing things. There are a handful of questions you can ask to make a return to your physical workplace successful and to discover if now is the right time to do it.

Start by defining what “returning to work” means to you. Everyone on your team will have a different definition – that can lead to miscommunication and strife. Ask your team to share their thoughts on the term “return to work,” and create a common definition or come up with a different term all together.

Then ask these questions:
  1. Why do this now?
    • Perhaps your implementation timeline is flexible, but you want to start discussing what work might be like if your organization defined “going to work” differently
    • You need figure out how to get back into a physical space because your organization depends on in-person experiences (theaters, restaurants, and so many others)
    • Everyone else is doing it… (this is not a great reason – let’s talk)
  2. How do values relate to the “return to work” conversation?
    • This is a PERFECT and ESSENTIAL TIME to include the values and vision of your organization in your decision-making process
    • Make sure that choices about returning to a physical space support and are supported by clear, articulated values
  3. How will you know if “returning to work” working?
    • Put metrics – objective and subjective – in place to help everyone see how this change is progressing; include a process for revisions (put safety first)
    • Remember to include time for readjustment – being around other humans may feel weird for a while
  4. What if the way in which we work could be more delightful for everyone: the introverts, the extroverts, and everyone who just wants to love their workplace a little more?
    • In March of 2020 we proved that workplaces can be completely rearranged in a matter of hours – we can be wildly inventive when we need and want to be
    • It’s very possible that how we return to work can be more flexible, more engaging, AND more productive than we know

I’m here if you want a hand thinking about these conversations. Email me and we’ll chat.

Here’s to you and all the good work you do in the world.


Additional Perspectives

Here are a few articles that might help you think about what this next phase of what work looks like:

  • Forbes: how remote work has fostered organizational resilience
  • BBC: what does “productivity” look like now?
  • Pew Research – so much data about how the pandemic has and has not changed how we work
  • Washington Post: yep, Zoom fatigue is real
  • And from me: go at your own pace – you do not have to crush 2021


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