Return To Office Plan (Back To Work Tips)

Written by:
Collin Waldoch
August 1, 2021

Do you have a return to office gameplan? To hit the ground running, we’ve collected essential back to work tips for team leaders. According to Eden Workplace, 85% of office workers are looking forward to returning to the office in some capacity. 52% highlight socializing with co-workers as their top reason for wanting to return to the office.

If managed well, a return to office life can come with both personal and professional benefits. During The COVID-19 pandemic sharpened the importance of social interaction and connection, especially in organizations that struggled to adapt to a makeshift remote approach.

Time away from the office might have allowed you to reflect on the team culture. There’s room for improvement in every organization’s team culture. The larger the workforce, the harder it is to shape and mold. It all comes down to leadership’s approach.

Initially, the return to office culture may feel disjointed. The unique camaraderie that once existed between co-workers might have disappeared. The top priority must be to get this back as it has a far greater impact on employee performance and retention than often assumed

Start thinking about your return to office strategy now

The worst thing you can do is leave your team culture to chance. You need to start thinking about your return to office strategy now rather than leaving it until the proverbial Sunday night. To get ahead of the game, consider potential ways to boost team morale.

Employee Recognition - Building Blocks
Legos are the buildings blocks of play time. What are your building blocks of employee recognition?

While the last year has undoubtedly been overwhelming for many leaders, you have a unique opportunity to reset the team culture and get things off to a positive start. If you’re serious about building back stronger, unlocking the potential of your workforce begins with nurturing the team culture. 

Accept the culture won’t be ‘back to normal’ in the first week

From the introduction of new risk assessments to phased returns for certain employees, think about what the first day is going to look like. As the workforce settles back into the environment, there are likely to be many distractions. You should think about ways to make the first few days easier. Something as simple as an online trivia quiz could loosen tensions.

Employee Recognition - High Five
It's unlikely, though not impossible, that you have mini-ladders and dogs as your co-workers.

Rather than trying to go back to normal, think about what the new normal looks like. With their remote working experience, it may become clear that team members now prefer to complete tasks in a different way. This could lead you to review your workflows. As you return to the office, you need to be receptive to employee feedback and any ideas they bring to the table.

For instance, if the team started using Slack during the pandemic, they might be keen to continue using the platform as a centralized hub for communication. The best thing a leader can do is help to facilitate these conversations and consult with your team. Employee feedback and ideas should help to inform the new normal.

Consider what has changed over the past year

You could conduct employee interviews and distribute a survey around the office to find out how the workforce feels about the changes over the past year. What worked? What didn’t work so well? These are the questions to be asking. As a leader, while you might have your own ideas, it’s critical to be receptive to staff feedback.

When collecting feedback, specificity is critical. If you made efforts to foster the remote team culture, how were these perceived? Do employees feel these were effective? They might have insights from the remote experience that could be applied to the office environment.

Prioritize cross-team communication

The importance of cross-team communication cannot be overstated. Despite the team coming back together, it’s still possible to feel distant from those in the same space. If your workforce feels disconnected upon arriving back in the office, cross-team communication is the secret ingredient.

Good cross-team communication begins at the very top. Each day, you should go out of your way to check in on team members. This gives employees the opportunity to express concerns. You need to create an environment that promotes open and honest conversations.

Employee Recognition - Communication
Conference rooms and videoconferences. Two conference-y ways to communicate.

Anxiety about returning to the office environment is inevitable. Regardless of the wellbeing procedures at your organization, it’s vital that employees feel genuinely supported by their immediate manager. The pandemic has affected people in very different ways and empathy needs to be deployed constantly.

Bring some fun into the office with lighthearted activities

With the support of Water Cooler Trivia, you can bring some fun into the working environment. Online trivia games can boost team morale and promote cross-team communication. If you’re looking for an inclusive activity with the potential to have a big impact in a short space of time, trivia quizzes are the way to go. Are you interested in leveraging an intuitive online trivia tool?

Find out more about using Water Cooler Trivia as part of your return to office plan today!