In a world reshaping itself after a long pandemic, there are still many uncertainties. After several months at home, some went back to the office singing, others dragging their feet. In a context favorable to employees, many prefer to resign rather than return to the office. What’s going on ? As a manager, what can you do to understand the situation and take the right actions?
I can’t go back to the office
Let’s start with the situations for which you have few solutions: for some people, it is impossible to return to the office…
Physical or mental health problems
For various reasons, the physical and mental health of your teams is not at its best. Many have missed important events with their loved ones, be it births, funerals, weddings, but also time spent with family and friends. This loss exacerbates weaknesses.
Sheltered in the comfort of their home, they could organize themselves and hide their emotions. Returning to a professional environment requires an extra effort. Their shield is heavy to wear. Thus, their reaction is to flee the office. You need to identify these people to make sure they get the support they need.
This is the time to talk to them about the reducing working time. You must ensure that they see a professional, to have a diagnosis and to benefit from financial support for absences related to their condition.
The work of caregivers
Whether it’s a young child, an aging parent, or a struggling spouse, your team has experienced changes that you may not be aware of. If these people were able to balance their office work with their caregiving work from home, the equation seems impossible to solve with a return to the office.
What does your organization do for these employees? 75% of them are women. How can you help them stay employed? They need support to carry out their work as caregivers. You can guide them towards home help services, and even subsidize them. You can organize the delivery of packed lunches or vegetables to the workplace. Finally, you can review the flexibility you offer. The 4-day week can benefit everyone.
I don’t want to go back to the office
3% of problems
Well, we’re not going to hide it, on average 3% of employees pose a problem. They just don’t want to work, and hide from home. They are not the ones who are going to resign, because they do not know the conditions elsewhere. Their values do not align with that of your organization. You have to work with them and agree on a separation if they don’t want to operate according to your organization’s value system.
If you were the one who hired them, now is the time to find your notes and find out what you missed during the recruitment. What question should you have asked yourself to better identify them and not hire them at all?
It don’t see any value in going back to the office
They explain to you that they are more effective at home. They tell you that they are not interrupted every ten minutes, that they can concentrate. They praise the ergonomics of their home installation They tell you the number of hours lost each week in transport. They are absolutely right… But their analysis forgets the importance of glue work (as defined by Tanya Reilly).
It’s all about the trivial tasks that make teams successful. Welcoming new employees, standardizing and documenting work methods, organizing, taking and distributing notes of meetings, or facilitating exchanges when the situation is blocked between two people or teams. All the tasks that bring nothing to the person doing them, but a lot to the organization. According to HBR, it is mostly women who do them. And in a context where some of the employees are at home, these tasks fall to those who are in the office. No wonder no one wants to go back to the office to do all that “useless” work.
You have two ways to solve this problem. First of all, become aware of the importance of this “glue” work and share it fairly in the team. Then you need to make sure your team shares your vision. You are all working together towards a common goal, personal goals are just steps towards the bigger goal, parts of a whole. Beyond sense-making, you could take action and change your performance evaluation model to do it by team rather than by individual.
As for the transport time, again the 4 day week paid 5 can be a solution. But what will help is, above all, the value that the person will get from his presence in the office. Services to simplify the life of your teams, such as a hairdresser or a gym, can improve this investment in travel time.
How much autonomy do you give your team? It is one of the three pillars of motivation. What benefits do they derive from their effectiveness? Working time management, without consideration of results, can have deleterious effects on performance and motivation. It is indeed a way of “micro-managing” a team.
By controlling everything employees do or measuring every minute of their time, you treat them as irresponsible. So they will behave the way you treat them. It’s a vicious circle, from which it will be difficult for you to get out.
You must trust that your team will take the right actions and decisions to go where you set out. Mistakes happen and are a learning opportunity, for you and for them.
Conclusion: a delicate balance
Nobody likes to change. A change implies an imbalance, which is uncomfortable. We tend to return to balance, but it may take time. Give your team time to find that balance. Everyone goes at their own pace, with their solutions. Communication is the key to your success.
Once you have found your own balance, how can you help others? If you are dissatisfied with this return to the office, then there is nothing you can do for your teams. What is the cause of your dissatisfaction? Chances are your team is going through the same thing. By improving working conditions for yourself, you also do so for others. Whether it’s small, quiet rooms for everyone to meditate, work in silence or make a personal call to implementing services or changing the performance evaluation, once again it’s your organization that will benefit from your “glue” work.