Return to Office Mandates
I’m a manager, and am hearing grumbling about our hybrid mandate from some employees—particularly those who have been with us before COVID. Our current company policy is that employees need to come to the office 3 days/week. What can I do to address the grumbling, given the company policy? I don’t want people quitting because of it.
Let’s look at the different elements to your question.
Who’s Grumbling, and Why?
First, let’s think about who is grumbling, so we can better know how to address it. You note that it is primarily people who were there pre-COVID. These folks (hopefully) have risen to the challenge of working remotely under very difficult circumstances and kept the organization moving forward. These employees see the sacrifices they are asked to make needed to go to the office. That is, they see the losses they are being asked to incur. They see that full time remote is possible, and are being asked to give up personal time to commute to and from work, and to have less flexibility over their daily schedule. It’s not a surprise that some of them may grumble.
Learn more from them about what—specifically—they are grumbling about. There may be a significant financial and/or time burden to come to the office (e.g., commute time, gasoline or train costs), or increased childcare costs. It may be that they are unclear about why they need to come in. Ask questions.
Why Does Your Organization Want Employees to Come to the Office?
At the same time, there is research supporting many organizations’ observation that certain types of jobs, functions, and tasks suffer when they are done remotely. Examples include certain kinds of collaboration, creativity, and innovation. In addition, engagement and belonging may suffer. Thus, from some organizations’ perspective, fully remote working hurts the organization.
The issue, then, is how the time is used when people are in the office. Ideally, your organization should communicate the case for employees to be in the office: what are the goals, what is the plan to meet those goals, what can employees do to help? Then, you as manager can reinforce those goals, the implementation, and make the in-office days worthwhile for employees.
For instance, if one goal is to increase collaboration, what steps is the company (and you) taking to increase collaboration on those in-office days? The same goes for other goals. How will the organization assess whether they are, in fact, achieving their goals?
Help Employees Understand Why They’re Asked to Come to the Office
Assuming your organization has specific reasons and goals for asking people to work in the office some days, you are in a position to reinforce that with your team—to explain why they are being asked to come in as it relates to your team, and what you are hoping to the team will get out of those in-person days. You can acknowledge the sacrifice that it makes, and also note that they may well “get” something from meeting in person with their colleagues, as well as contributing more effectively to the organization’s goals and mission.
Disclaimer: This question and response is provided for informational purposes only, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. It is strongly recommended that you immediately seek legal or other professional advice if you believe you are experiencing a problem requiring professional assistance. Robin Rosenberg and Live in Their World, Inc. disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on Dear Robin content.