In recent months, company executives and HR leaders have announced plans and policies for a return to the workplace.  For those organizations opting to return people to the office, either full-time or part-time, managing a large-scale transition back to the office is something most leaders have never faced. Furthermore, this is another change employees are being asked to absorb in the wake of more than 18-months of disruption and uncertainty.

Leaders facing this challenge are expected to motivate and energize employees, even as they continue to face a high degree of short and long-term uncertainty. This continuing uncertainty, and the desire to ensure a smooth transition back to the office creates added complexity as leaders struggle to get things right.  

For leaders, key principles to remember about effective change execution include keeping their teams focused on what is within their control and providing timely support as the team and individual direct reports adapt to the transition.    

If you are in an organization that is implementing return to work policies, here are three tips to help ensure a successful transition for your employees as they return to their physical work location:

#1 Lead Empathetically 

Change is hard. Managing the transition that change brings can even be harder. Remember, everyone’s feelings and circumstances related to returning to the workplace are different.  The most impactful things you can do as a leader are to build trust, seek perspective and understanding, and listen to your team’s ideas and innovative solutions for making the transition back to the office successful.

#2 Jump Start™ Your Team

Most teams have conducted regular virtual team meetings throughout the pandemic.  At the same time, the organization has likely shifted strategic priorities to deal with marketplace disruption and changing customer needs.  Using the return to the workplace as an opportunity to “Reset” or “Jump Start” your team provides an opportunity for igniting a shared vision and aligning on new ways of working. Jump Starting your team can include aligning expectations, resetting strategic team goals, clarifying roles and responsibilities, building trust and collaboration, and determining priorities and commitments needed to move forward.   

#3 Focus on Developing and Retaining Your Talent

During their work from home, many individuals used this time to re-evaluate personal priorities and career goals. Additionally, with the economy bouncing back, new career opportunities may be available. The “Great Resignation” is real and the organizational impact profound, with up to 40% of employees looking to change jobs. As a leader, it is critical to check in with each employee to better understand career goals and their focus on personal and professional development. Be sure to stay informed about company efforts to develop and retain talent and leverage available company resources. Consider sharpening your ability to conduct “re-recruitment” and “making a save” conversations that can improve the retention of high-performing talent.

Managing change always tests leadership skills. Returning to work offers another change opportunity to manage. Remember to be mindful about the tone you set, the commitments you make, and the individual interactions with your team and direct reports that can influence their organizational commitment.  

If you are interested in learning more about WLH’s consulting services and blended learning solutions that build effective, strategic change execution leadership capabilities, please click here or schedule a call with one of our experienced consultants to discuss your organization’s needs and how WLH can help. 

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Organizational CultureTalent DevelopmentWorkforce PlanningWendy L. HeckelmanChange Leadership ExpertWLH Consulting Inc.Team PerformanceEmpathetic EngagementLeadership PracticesTransition Practices