If your organization’s “return to the workplace” considerations and preparations are limited to just those employees who were asked to work from home at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are missing an opportunity to lead meaningful cultural change.
The latest research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that among most larger organizations surveyed (those employing >1,000), return to the workplace planning efforts are largely focused on the fraction of their workforces required to work remotely due to stay-at-home orders, rather than all employees.
Most organizations that are preparing their workers to return to the workplace are doing all the right things—creating playbooks or guides (80%), providing training on new approaches to safety measures (74%), facilitating town hall conversations that allow for Q&A (49%), and upskilling their leaders so that they can better guide their teams through the transition and challenges ahead (42%).
While half of the larger employers surveyed said that they are including all employees in their reboarding offerings, 43% said that such efforts are primarily focused on the work-from-home group.
This fails to acknowledge that the changes we have all experienced (and will continue to) affect everyone—not simply those who were asked to work remotely for a period of time. And potentially leaving others out of what could be a deeper, more meaningful conversation about the organization and what it aspires to be is a lost opportunity to bring everyone into a conversation about moving forward.
Last week’s survey found that return-to-the-workplace preparations are led by HR in most organizations, usually in concert with a multidisciplinary task force or formal response team that typically includes representatives across functions and geographies from senior leadership, general counsel, facilities, corporate communications, etc.
A combined 62% of larger organizations are in the process of active planning or have already conducted a reboarding process to prepare employees who are returning to the workplace.
For organizations still in the early planning stages, elements should include a mechanism to continuously gather employee sentiment about return to the office needs and preferences, assessing the availability of local external supports (schools/child care services, public transportation, etc.) and balancing all of that with compliance concerns—i4cp’s Return to the Workplace Checklist can help.