Should we go back to the office?

Based on the HBR article A CEO’s guide to planning a return to the office by Dan Ciampa 

It’s been almost a year since we have started working from home in most countries, and even when in developing countries, the vaccinated population is growing fast, which represents a positive fact for thinking about returning to the office, making a good plan to reach that goal could be a little bit difficult.

In the US, for instance, the CEOs of companies that remain working remotely have already started thinking about how to develop a plan to get back their employees to the office, when they have two main questions in mind: 

  • How to make decision tasks that used to be done face-to-face when most employees say they want to keep the remote way of working?
  • How to decrease the impact on the company culture if the employees are no longer at the office? 

Despite the country and specific situation each CEO faces, the guidelines listed below can be useful.

  1. The resistance to making final decisions of some leaders can be related to the uncertain near future, so one key success factor is to buy time to gather more information and leave options open as long as possible.
  2. Regarding returning to the office scenarios, CEOs should ask questions and keep their thoughts and opinions for their own as long as possible in order not to influence their employees.
  3. Many HR areas of some companies have asked employees how many days they want to go to the office once we overcome the pandemic and the results vary depending on what employees working from home experience are, so leaders must look at employee surveys as one data point and consider polling managers separately because due to their job some managers have found that remote work is more frustrating than satisfying. For instance, if they are not done well, motivation and teamwork decline, so they will prefer to return to the office as an obligation more than an option
  4. CEOs should recognize that company size is an important fact to take into account, so larger organizations “need to rely more on formal policies and perceptions of fairness, limiting their ability to make decisions on a person-by-person basis, as smaller organizations might do,” according to A CEO’s guide to planning a return to the office
  5. CEOs should not be stuck by technological solutions to the remote working issue when making this decision. The main questions should be: “What will we not be able to do well if we go too far in that direction?” and “What does going ‘too far’ mean?”

The well-known news that big companies like Google, Facebook, Adobe, Twitter, Oracle and Salesforce announced regarding plans to enforce remote work permanently must not influence the CEOs when they develop the plan to return to the office. Instead, they will carefully analyze sources and self-interests to define the best mix of remote and at-the-office work considering the variety of short-term costs and efficiency and make a fewer impact on the relationships employees have formed and their emotional connection with the company.

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