Working remotely is great for so many reasons. It can also be tough to stay connected to the home office and colleagues, and truly be/feel part of a "team." How can I help my manager/director make the best decision possible post-COVID for new office policies? Are there any guides you can offer or questions to consider? I am trying to be a good employee and think about what would help my boss pitch this to her boss!
Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg
Dear Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg,
First, congratulatulations on taking the initiative on this important topic! Now’s the time to begin working on a plan, but this is uncharted territory which can make it feel like both a grand opportunity and a daunting task. But getting started is often the hardest part so let’s jump in.
Things will never return completely to the way they were and that’s a good thing. This is an opportunity for managers to re-engage teams and re-imagine the workplace. You are on the right path in starting this process and supporting your manager in these transitions. So share your ideas with your manager and let them know you’re willing to help if needed.
Your manager can start by assessing your organizational chart and deciding if the right people are doing the right jobs. The last year has changed the way we work, along with many job descriptions. Now is a great time to make sure the team is the right group doing the right tasks. Next, do a survey of staff work styles, perhaps as a casual conversation over Zoom, or via formal survey. Many people love working from home, but many do not, and many more like a hybrid. Help your manager get a sense of where your workforce lands on that scale. Keep in mind most children will go back to school so most parents will no longer be home-schooling and working at the same time. Therefore, it’s likely okay to require standard working hours even for those working remotely. Maybe your manager is fine with people setting their own schedules but make sure that whatever the policy is, be sure it is set with consistency and clarity.
Next, your manager should map out roles and responsibilities within your company and note the jobs that require more on-site time and the ones that don’t. Are the people that want to work remotely the ones whose tasks are suited to that? If not, return to the organizational chart. Consider the challenges that have been most acute over the past year: are they a result of remote work or are they symptoms of other concerns that need to be addressed?
There’s also the question of office infrastructure. Once there’s a plan for where everyone will be working, consider the physical office space. Do you still need that many desks? Would a more open, shared space promote productivity and be useful for hybrid workers? Do you have adequate audio-visual equipment to accommodate meetings with a group in the room and a group off-site? These may seem like potentially expensive considerations but your goal is a healthy, happy workforce with optimum productivity so this investment may have significant payout over time.
Finally, your manager should continue thinking about the physical and mental health of staff as you make these transitions. Clear communication as to what changes will be made, along with when and why, will help ease the tension of rolling out a new model. Evolutions of this plan may need to happen and that’s OK--staff should know that management is open to feedback. It’s also worth thinking about ways to support staff down the road after the initial transition has been made and a natural cadence is underway. Is there one day a month when everyone is on site and you have lunch together? Are there professional development opportunities that bring pods of people together in person? How about group volunteering in the community? There are many suggestions online to support this exploration so factor it into your planning.
This is only a start but you’re on the right path just by asking the question. How your company handles this recovery phase will be recognized by staff, clients, vendors, investors, supporters, and partners. For that and so many other reasons, it’s worth doing well.
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.