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Navigating Return to Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the way we live and work, forcing companies to adapt to remote work to ensure business continuity. With vaccination rates increasing and COVID-19 cases decreasing in many regions, companies are now faced with the decision of whether to return to the office or continue remote work. This decision can be challenging for CEOs who need to consider both the company benefits and employee benefits. In this blog post, we will discuss how a CEO should handle a return to the office versus working remotely, outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Benefits of Returning to the Office

Collaboration and Communication

Returning to the office can provide several advantages for companies, including improved collaboration and communication. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, remote work can lead to communication breakdowns, misinterpretation of information, and a lack of engagement, which can negatively impact productivity (Chowdhury & Ferdous, 2020). In-person collaboration and communication can reduce these issues, as employees can quickly resolve issues, brainstorm ideas, and engage in face-to-face conversations.

Improved Company Culture

Returning to the office can also improve company culture. Company culture is critical for employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention. According to a survey by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that a strong company culture is essential for business success (Deloitte, 2020). Returning to the office can facilitate in-person team building activities, social events, and informal interactions, which can help build a sense of community and belonging among employees.

Increased Productivity

Returning to the office can also improve productivity, as employees may find it easier to focus and avoid distractions. A survey by Buffer found that 20% of remote workers cited loneliness and distractions as their biggest challenges, which can negatively impact productivity (Buffer, 2021). Additionally, returning to the office can provide employees with access to office equipment and resources, which may be challenging to replicate at home.

Benefits of Working Remotely

Flexibility

One of the most significant benefits of remote work is the flexibility it provides to employees. Remote work can allow employees to work from anywhere, which can reduce commuting time, increase work-life balance, and improve job satisfaction. According to a study by Owl Labs, 71% of remote workers reported a better work-life balance than office workers (Owl Labs, 2019).

Reduced Costs

Remote work can also lead to reduced costs for both companies and employees. Companies can save on office space, equipment, and utilities, while employees can save on commuting costs, meals, and work attire. According to a study by Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save an average of $11,000 per year per employee with remote work (Global Workplace Analytics, 2020).

Improved Health and Well-being

Remote work can also lead to improved health and well-being for employees. A study by the World Economic Forum found that remote work can reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality (World Economic Forum, 2021). Additionally, remote work can provide employees with more time for exercise, healthy meal preparation, and self-care activities, which can improve overall well-being.

How Should a CEO Handle a Return to the Office vs Working Remotely?

The decision of whether to return to the office or continue remote work should be made based on a thorough evaluation of the company's goals and objectives, as well as the preferences and needs of employees. The following are some key considerations for CEOs when making this decision.

Employee Preferences

The preferences and needs of employees should be a crucial consideration when deciding whether to return to the office or continue remote work. A survey by PwC found that 55% of employees would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week post-pandemic (PwC, 2021). Companies should consider conducting surveys or focus groups to gather employee feedback and preferences regarding remote work and returning to the office. This information can help companies make informed decisions that prioritize employee needs and preferences.

Safety Measures

The health and safety of employees should be a top priority for companies. Companies should consider implementing safety measures, such as social distancing, mandatory masks, and enhanced cleaning protocols, to ensure a safe return to the office. Additionally, companies should provide employees with resources and support to ensure their physical and mental well-being.

Company Culture

Company culture is critical for employee engagement and retention. CEOs should consider how returning to the office or continuing remote work will impact the company culture. If returning to the office, CEOs should plan team-building activities, social events, and opportunities for informal interactions to help build a sense of community and belonging among employees. If continuing remote work, CEOs should consider implementing virtual team-building activities and opportunities for informal interactions to promote engagement and connection among employees.

Productivity and Performance

Productivity and performance should be a key consideration when deciding whether to return to the office or continue remote work. CEOs should consider the nature of the work being performed and the impact of the work environment on productivity. If returning to the office, CEOs should ensure that the office environment is conducive to productivity, with access to necessary resources and minimal distractions. If continuing remote work, CEOs should consider providing employees with necessary resources and tools to support their work, such as office equipment and software.

Navigating the communication

As a leadership team, messaging the need to return to work while balancing employee desire to work remotely can be a delicate task. Here are some key considerations for messaging this decision effectively:

1.  Acknowledge Employee Preferences

Acknowledge that many employees have become accustomed to remote work and may prefer to work remotely at least part of the time. Communicate that you understand their concerns and that the company values their well-being and job satisfaction.

2.  Explain the Company's Needs

Communicate the company's reasons for considering a return to the office. Explain that the company values in-person collaboration, communication, and community building, and that this is necessary to achieve business objectives. Additionally, explain that there may be some work that is better suited for an in-person environment.

3.  Outline the Plan

Outline the plan for returning to work, including the expected timeline and any safety measures that will be in place. Communicate the company's commitment to employee safety and well-being, and explain how safety measures will be implemented and enforced.

4.  Offer Flexibility

Offer some flexibility in terms of scheduling and remote work options. Consider allowing employees to work remotely for a certain number of days per week or providing flexible scheduling options that allow employees to work from home when necessary. Communicate the company's commitment to finding a solution that works for everyone.

5.  Emphasize Communication

Emphasize the importance of communication throughout the transition process. Encourage employees to share their concerns and feedback, and be open to adjusting the plan as necessary to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and supported.

6.  Provide Resources and Support

Provide resources and support to help employees adjust to the return to the office. Consider providing training on any new safety measures or protocols, as well as resources to help employees manage stress or anxiety related to the transition.

Conclusion

The decision of whether to return to the office or continue remote work can be challenging for CEOs, requiring careful consideration of both the company benefits and employee benefits. Returning to the office can provide advantages, such as improved collaboration and communication, improved company culture, and increased productivity. However, working remotely can also provide benefits, such as flexibility, reduced costs, and improved health and well-being. When making this decision, CEOs should consider employee preferences, safety measures, company culture, and productivity and performance. By taking these factors into account, companies can make informed decisions that prioritize the needs and preferences of employees while also achieving business objectives.

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Are you a CEO or executive who is struggling with the decision of whether to continue remote work or return to the office? Mahdlo Executive Advisors can help. Our team of experienced advisors has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with remote work and returning to the office.

We offer a quick discovery call to help you understand how we can support your business in making this critical decision. During this call, we will listen to your concerns, provide insights based on our experience, and offer actionable strategies to help you make an informed decision that prioritizes the needs of your employees while achieving your business objectives.

Don't let the decision of whether to continue remote work or return to the office overwhelm you. Schedule a quick discovery call with Mahdlo Executive Advisors today and let us help you navigate this important decision.