Fifteen months ago with the pandemic taking a firm grip across the globe, many employers and employees were faced with a sudden need to change working practices. With little room for proactive planning, organisations had to hit the ground running, with best practice approaches to managing workplace change seeming like voices from the past that had little relevance to the current situation.

Working from home (WFH) provided a perfect example of ‘learning while you are doing’, how to balance work and personal life while grappling with technology to maintain professional and personal interactions. Despite the challenges faced by many of us in the initial stages of WFH, findings from multiple studies indicate that several benefits, for both employers and employees, have come from this change is working practice.

With lockdown restrictions being lifted, there is now much talk about hybrid working, a mix of WFH and working from the office. Whilst this has been practiced by many businesses over the years, some organizations seem determined to go back to their pre-pandemic working pattern of having employees mainly working from the office.

While this might seem a logical step from the employers’ point-of-view, employees might not see this in the same way. Having spent almost 15 months without the stress of commuting, without the additional expenses (work clothing, eating out…) of working elsewhere and possibly an enhanced work/life balance, returning to the old ways of working might induce a reverse culture shock like that observed amongst expatriates returning to their home countries after working in another culture. Employees may experience a range of emotional reactions such as anger, frustration, apathy, anxiety, and demotivation leading to reduced productivity.

What can employers do to facilitate back to office transition?

  • Recognise that their employees might have underlying anxieties about commuting and working in a large office and be ready to address these sympathetically
  • Identify how individual employees feel about this. Some are waiting to come back to the office, others may look for another job if forced back against their will
  • Manage the return in a phased and timetabled manner. Allow time for people to plan and adjust to this change
  • Conduct pulse surveys on a regular basis
  • Provide mini training/coaching sessions on managing personal transitions

ODRL will be running a webinar on Managing Transitions Effectively. Please contact me for details.