Bringing Employees Back to the Office

By now, it is likely that you or someone you know has been personally impacted by the “Great Resignation” in some way. The number of people leaving their jobs is increasing month after month and this trend shows no sign of stopping. Just this past January, 4.3 Americans left their jobs.

It’s critical that you nurture your current workforce and demonstrate the flexibility needed to retain them.

The pandemic caused massive shifts in where work takes place. Prior to the pandemic, around 20% of Americans worked remotely. At the onset of the pandemic, that percentage jumped to a whopping 71% (Source: Pew Research Center)! 

While many employers are considering bringing teams back into the office, this hasn’t always been a smooth transition. If your organization is also grappling with this challenge, here are some tips to consider.

Be transparent

Chances are, there will be differences of opinions as to what return to work looks like.  But the best way to put together a plan that staff can agree upon is to be transparent. Leaders need to be clear on what options they are considering and ensure that they give space for their team to give feedback on these options. You will get buy-in faster on any new remote work policies if team members feel they were heard in the decision-making process. 

We once worked with a leader who wanted to put a positive spin on everything. I understood why they preferred to shine a positive light on every situation but the problem with that is employees can sense when a leader is not being transparent. And the lack of transparency can erode trust. Remember Jack Nicholson’s famous line from one of his movies, “You can’t handle the truth?” Well thankfully employees can handle the truth and can be a great source of ideas when allowed to be involved in the problem solving. 

Consider the Current Labor Market 

According to Pew Research Center, 54% of American workers would like to continue working remotely at least part of the time. While remote work obviously isn’t feasible for every industry, if your organization fails to consider worker sentiment around this issue, you may be in trouble given the widespread staffing shortage that is impacting almost every aspect of American life. 

Restaurants are closing their doors completely or operating on more limited hours. Limited numbers of dock workers means that harbors are backlogged with container ships waiting to unload their goods. Flights are being cancelled by the hundreds. Airport security lines are longer because of a lack of TSA employees. Parents have been unable to return to work because daycares cannot find teachers for their young pupils. This worker shortage makes it even more imperative that you create a compassionate  plan to return to the office or you may find yourself short-staffed with no replacements in sight.  

Consider your Options 

Remote work isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. Many organizations are creating flexible policies that allow their teams to work from home for a certain number of days. Leaders might also want to consider the unique needs of each team member. Parents and caregivers responsible for dependents or aging parents may have more challenges returning than others. Make sure you take these barriers into account when deciding on how to move forward.

This helpful article from the Center for Creative Leadership makes a strong case for why companies need to embrace flexibility in the workplace. “The majority of employees say they want flexible and remote work options to remain — one study even found that 64% would prefer a permanent work-from-home situation over a $30K pay raise. If organizations want to succeed in the future, it’s not a question of if they should be flexible, but how they will be flexible.”

Additional resources 

Return to Work Checklist

Ways to Support Working Parents Returning to the Office

Guidance on Returning to Work


If you are looking for guidance around creating an equitable return-to-work plan or organizational transformation in general, Kindall Evolve would love to help. Contact us today to set up your discovery call. 

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