Return To Office: Ways To Evolve Employee Expectations In 2022

Organizations should make the transition as seamless as possible for both their employees and businesses

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Transformation and change have been the most significant words in our vocabulary for the past two years. Everything around us has had to change to adapt to the evolving circumstances and businesses have been no exceptions. As the pandemic is finally coming to an end, and most of us returning to offices and our "new normal lives', we ought to step back and re-evaluate.

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Organizations should make the transition as seamless as possible for both their employees and businesses. The imperative now is to identify and evaluate the trends and shifts in an organization's operations and structure and make the necessary changes.

The pandemic not only brought about a physical change in the way employees and organizations work but also changed the way we think about work. From creating work from home set-ups to juggling between work at home and office, to adapting to virtual brainstorming, employers and employees were both trying to find the right balance. Although working from home allowed employees to spend time with families and save on travel costs and time, it impacted work discipline and often ended up in increased working hours. The resulting impact on productivity has been a long-standing debate between organizations and employees. Lack of social engagements and communication gaps further made employees feel isolated and detached from their coworkers. And as the pandemic is ending, we now have all these points to address.

As we are gradually transitioning back into offices, organizations must work out guidelines keeping in mind employee expectations. Remote working allowed employees to move to their hometowns and allowing employees their time to return to offices without hampering business continuity is one of the points to be considered while framing return to office strategy. In the post-pandemic world, balancing work life and personal life has become central to people's lives, and organizations must take this into account to seamlessly manage company operations without creating a stressful environment for employees. Being flexible towards an employee's personal situation is one step in that direction.

As organizations cut down on office spaces to manage fixed costs during the pandemic, they will now need to optimize space utilization as employees return to offices. Return to office plans must incorporate seating arrangements as employees may not be comfortable with unassigned seating and this may impact their productivity.

As a way to boost social interactions and employee morale, companies should advocate and support mental wellbeing as well as small initiatives that make employees feel appreciated and understood. Training and development sessions that will help them upskill in their own roles will also help improve confidence and provide them with the sense of security in their careers. Maintaining a clean and healthy environment with all the necessary amenities and adhering to COVID-19 protocols will ensure a safe working environment for employees. Providing employees with more flexible roles and promoting cross-functional knowledge and training will also ensure our readiness to adopt a dynamic style of working as per requirement in future.

While employees re-adjust to the new work from office, both physical and mindset related workplaces changes will have to be imbibed as a part of organizational culture. As they say change is inevitable and embracing it needs time and sensitivity. We were forced to change our style of working when the pandemic started, then gradually through the last two years and now as we slowly return to life before the pandemic. The only constant has been "change"!