I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with leaders and leadership teams, and the biggest topic on their minds right now is the future of the office. Specifically, how do you manage a team that doesn’t want to come back to the office full time?
Early in the pandemic, when organisations with office workers scrambled to allow employees to work from home, most leaders and managers saw it only as a short-term crisis response. But to their surprise, productivity increased and many people enjoyed working from home. Now, as we’re learning to ‘live with COVID’, those employees want that to continue. Not necessarily full-time, but they don’t want to go back to the office full-time either (that’s so 2019!).
Right now, we’re facing two conflicting problems:
- Many employees don’t want to work from an office all the time.
- Many managers don’t know how to lead people they can’t see all the time.
So managers and leaders are trying to drag people back into the office (because that’s easier than learning how to be better leaders!) and their team members are pushing back.
So, what’s the best mix for the future?
I’ve been championing this idea of ‘out of office’ for more than a decade, and I’ve seen many variations on the 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday office. You probably have as well – especially in the last few years:
- A four-day office week, with employees choosing one day a week to work away from the office
- Two overlapping shifts, one with Monday to Wednesday in the office and the other Wednesday to Friday
- A four-day work week, where people achieve the same results in four days (office or elsewhere) as they did before in five
- Two people for each role, and each pair decides when they will be in the office
- Never working from the office ever again
- and many other variations …
So, which option is the best?
Many people have asked me this question in the last 18 months! And my answer is always:
‘I don’t know.’
… and …
‘You probably don’t know either!’
For many organisations, leaders, and teams, this is the most radical shake-up of their workplace – ever! So don’t think you know the perfect right answer for you.
Instead, meet with your team, discuss options, choose one you think will work, and then agree to try it out for a short time (I suggest a three-month trial). Then agree that at the end of that time, you will assess it fairly, dismantle it, and try again.
In the unlikely event you happen to get it exactly right the first time – congratulations! But more likely, you’ll find some things you want to do differently next time around.
This gets you into action.
Don’t waste time analysing every option in detail. The truth is, you just don’t know until you try something. So try something!