As flexible working options continue in popularity in Northern American markets, it's interesting to note that European and Asian counterparts are taking a different approach, with surveys indicating a return to the office. In Asia, post-pandemic office occupancy rates hover between 80% and 100% [i], suggesting a strong willingness among employees to resume in-person work. Experts attribute this trend to several factors, such as smaller home workstations, shorter average commute times, and a more robust public transport system, making it easier and more appealing for Asian employees to return to the office [ii].
Given this shift, financial services organizations contemplating a full-time return to the office should approach the transition process with respect and understanding. Recognizing the varying preferences and circumstances of their employees, these organizations need to implement strategies that support a smooth and inclusive transition. With superior infrastructure and convenience on their side, companies can adapt their approaches and policies accordingly, ensuring a smooth reintroduction of the office environment while prioritizing employee well-being and satisfaction.
Transparent and effective communication
It all begins with the right method of communication; open and transparent communication is crucial throughout the transition process. Clearly articulate the reasons for returning to the office full-time, such as evolving business needs or the requirement for in-person collaboration.
Address employee concerns and provide a forum for questions and feedback to ensure a smooth and well-understood transition. Through observation, our talent experts have noticed that employers who are able to provide direct citations as to why it’s beneficial to engage in an in-person environment have experienced the smoothest transition for their employees upon returning to the office.
💡 Added tip
Our team of talent experts suggest a 2-pronged approach; first, let your employees know the quantitative difference between what can be achieved when they are able to work together in the office versus when they are remote, such as better problem-solving and idea generation. Secondly, highlight the qualitative benefits of morale and collaboration of a gathered team. These two things combined help employees reflect on the importance of working together in person.
Flexible Transition Plan:
Recognize that employees may have individual circumstances and concerns. Develop a flexible transition plan that considers personal situations, such as childcare or health issues. Offer temporary arrangements or phased approaches to ease the adjustment back to full-time office work. This flexibility demonstrates that your company is empathetic to the changes happening and shows commitment to employee work-life balance. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for everybody, so it pays to give options.
Reconnect and Rebuild Relationships:
Returning to the office provides an opportunity to reconnect and rebuild relationships among colleagues. Organize team-building activities, social events, and town hall meetings to facilitate the reintegration process. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration and foster a sense of camaraderie to enhance teamwork and employee engagement.
“As leaders know it, today’s employees not only expect more from their employers. They are also more vocal about their needs, and more focused on their own values and purpose. Once employees sense a mismatch, their engagement rate would fall - which leads to, more often than not, high turnover rates which leaders have to pay the price for.” [iii]
Consider Office Spaces:
Re-evaluate and alter office spaces to accommodate the evolving needs of the workforce. Create agile work environments that promote teamwork, innovation, and adaptability. Consider implementing hot-desking or activity-based seating arrangements to allow employees to choose workspaces that suit their needs. Incorporate comfortable breakout areas, meeting rooms equipped with technology, and collaborative spaces.
Emphasize Career Development Opportunities:
Highlight the career development opportunities that come with in-person collaboration by encouraging face-to-face interactions such as learning from experienced colleagues roundtable discussions, and role swapping or shadowing to foster professional growth. Showcase the company's commitment to investing in employees' career development through training programs, mentorship initiatives, and networking opportunities.
Evolve Work-Life Integration Strategies:
Recognize that the pandemic has shifted employees' expectations around work-life integration. Explore ways to enhance work-life balance within the full-time office environment. Provide clearly documented policies about new working schemes and offer case-by-case flexible hours, remote work options for specific days, or consider alternative work schedules that accommodate personal commitments. By adapting work-life integration strategies, employers can foster a supportive and engaging work environment.
Be Open to Continuous Adaptation:
Regularly assess the effectiveness of the transition back to the office and create direct channels available to employees to seek feedback. Monitor the impact on employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction. Be open to adjusting strategies based on feedback and evolving circumstances to ensure a successful transition that meets the needs of both the business and employees.
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