Understanding the challenges of coming back to the office


If we’ve learnt anything from the last few months, it’s that humans are great at adapting. Within just a couple of weeks, the majority of the nation’s (and indeed, the world’s) workforce pivoted to working from home, with very little preparation involved. Of course, we now have the technology to make this possible but it is impressive to see how easily the transition was made. Now, we’re facing yet another shake-up: the inevitable return to the office. 

Exploring the spectrum of anxiety 

At first glance, it’s easy to think that people fall into one of two categories: introvert or extravert. While many are going stir-crazy in their home offices, counting down the days until they’re able to travel into work again, many are happier than they’ve ever been, working in their pyjamas, throwing on work gear up top for the camera and only having online interactions. 

The anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that there’s more to it than just introversion and extraversion. Some introverts find themselves stuck in a noisy house full of children who need home-schooling while some extraverts have found the opportunities for constant online contact through Zoom and other messaging platforms the perfect way to satisfy their need to interact. Then, there are others who are understandably nervous about re-entering the ‘real world’ when the threat of COVID-19 is yet to be eliminated. It has been a tumultuous time for many, and it’s important to take all of this into consideration. 

What should leaders be conscious of? 

There will be very few organisations heading back to ‘business as usual’, particularly with social distancing still in play, A/B teams coming into force and many people opting to work from home. Those who are keen to get back to the office won’t be returning to the bustling place they might be expecting and that brings a whole host of conflicting feelings in itself. 

Leaders should think about the processes they’ve put in place and how that might affect team members — knowing your team well is the only way you can understand how the new measures may be affecting their wellbeing, too. 

What can leaders do to ease the transition? 

Keep open lines of communication — ensure that your team knows they can raise any concerns they may have with you at any time. It’s likely that there will be some hiccups as we attempt to ‘return to normal’ and leaders must be willing to listen to feedback and make adjustments. It’s also important to be asking your team how their day is going, how they’re feeling and if they have any concerns. Don’t wait for your team to come to you, show them that the door is open by asking the questions and showing you care. 

Stay flexible — the last couple of months have shown that flexible working really is possible. Many organisations are allowing their staff to work from home a few days a week or permanently. Consider how you can be flexible for your team so they can continue to work in the way that is best for them. 

Learn from what’s worked — do video calls work for your team? What about virtual socials? Just because restrictions are ending, it doesn’t mean that the enjoyable parts need to end too! Think about what has worked well for your team over the last few months and figure out how you can implement them in your day-to-day life as a team. 

It has been a rocky year and these are definitely tricky waters to navigate. If you’re leading a team, make sure you’re prepared to handle the heightened emotions that come with such a strange time and be ready to make changes as you go! 

Are you thinking about how you can bring your team back to the office with ease? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.