A monumental shift toward remote work happened as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged around the world. While fairly painless for many organizations, and already the norm for others, the shift wasn’t entirely easy for those that had never allowed their workforce to telecommute.
There were (and are) pain points but, by and large, the shift worked. Fast forward to our current point in the pandemic, and projects are still being completed. Communication is still happening. Employees are just as—if not more—productive than their in-office days. And those who opted to spend their workdays watching Netflix instead of working—jiggling their computer mouse every now and then to appear online—have been found out for their lack of completed duties.
Now that the dust has settled and employees have established a new normal of working from home, their employers are calling them back into the workplace.
Ready or not, the office is saying, you must all come back.
As the world reopens and corporate leaders usher their employees back to the office, much uncertainty hangs in the air. Will companies and cooperatives adopt ongoing remote work policies where, pre-pandemic, none such policies existed? Or will those companies readopt the stance that workers must complete their duties from corporate workspaces?
The answer, of course, varies.
Many cooperatives have valid reasons for their stance of readopting policies that all employees must work from the office. Before returning to the ‘pre-pandemic normal’ though, organizational leaders should take this opportunity to challenge whether that stance is still in the best interests of their co-ops and their employees. Dig deep and get to the root of the hesitations. Are you concerned about possible rifts between employees who are allowed to work remote and those in hands-on jobs who can’t work from home? Do you feel more comfortable being able to see employees working at their office desks? Are you concerned that communication and collaboration will diminish when employees aren’t physically in the same space?
Consider the pandemic as your test case for remote work. Assess what worked well, and what didn’t. Explore opportunities for allowing part-time remote work or allowing more flexible work schedules. The door is open for a lasting shift toward new approaches to how and where work gets done.
Whether adopting a new remote work policy or readopting a no remote work policy, communication is key. Employees can’t simply unsee what they’ve seen through the pandemic. A paradigm shift has happened. When required to return to the pre-pandemic grind, workers will, internally and to their colleagues, ask one question reframed in many ways:
Why can’t I work remote part time?
Why must I commute in crowded traffic every day?
Why can’t the workweek allow for more flexibility?
Why doesn’t my supervisor trust me to work from home?
Why must I risk my health to sit in an office?
Why can’t I work from home if I’m feeling a bit sick, but not sick enough to take PTO?
Why shouldn’t I start looking for a job within a company that allows remote work?
As apprehensive employees transition back to the office, organizational leaders must have valid answers to their remote work questions. If ever there was a need for well-planned change management, this is it. Whatever stance your organization takes regarding remote work moving forward, its reasoning must be rock solid and well-communicated.
Thinking of implementing a remote work policy, but not sure where to begin? Check out our recent blog post “How to Effectively Communicate with Remote Workers” for tips on implementing remote work policies that set everyone up for success. Also, check out “Remote: Office Not Required” to learn more about the impacts of remote work on organizations.
Looking for additional guidance? Learn more about our Communication Consultation and Coaching Services!
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