Ready to go back to the office, anyone?

Leadership Memo 2020-1

We have all been working remotely for the past few months, and you may think you got the hang of remote working. You figure out what meetings to call, what doesn’t need a meeting, you learn how to take care of yourself so you’re not more exhausted at the end of each day nor are you too overwhelmed. You even figure out how to get your meeting attendees to turn on their video cameras. Congratulations!

As countries around the world are easing up on the pandemic lockdown restrictions, businesses are reopening. Should your company go fully remote then? Or back to the office? Or somewhere in between?

Remote working is not for everyone. Some people miss seeing their colleagues, talking to them face to face and hearing conversations happening around them, yet others think the video conference interactions are more than plenty. As a leader in the company, what should you do?

While there are many things to consider, I’d suggest you not let those considerations restrict you from what you should do. 

My recommendation: Let the employees choose. Some people love the taste of remote work, so to force them to go back to the office is a sure way to demotivate them. Others find that taste bitter and can’t wait to go back to the office, so to force them to stay at home would only frustrate them further.

Some considerations: 

  1. Is your company set up in a way that allows employees to choose? 
    1. Do your employees have a suitable home office with suitable equipment or have they been hunching over a laptop on the kitchen counter? Would you be helping them to buy those necessary equipment (e.g. proper chair, desk, monitor, better internet access, etc)?
    2. Do your employees have access to all the necessary corporate systems?
    3. Does your company have the infrastructure to support access from people’s homes around the world? 
  2. Is your facilities department ready to change the office space to adhere to the government guidelines for reopening?
  3. Do you even need physical offices if you are all remote?
  4. Do you and your managers know how to manage remotely? Perhaps you have these questions below:
    1. How do I manage my employees when I don’t get to see them? I haven’t even met the ones who started during this time.
    2. How do I know if my employees are working hard instead of slacking off?
    3. How do I get a pulse on how things are? e.g. how are the projects coming along? How are my employees feeling? What are the watercooler discussions?
    4. How do I ensure my employees are working as a team when we don’t even see each other face to face or that they haven’t even met some of their teammates?
    5. How do I motivate my teams? How do I know when to motivate them? 
    6. How does recruiting and onboarding work if we are all remote?
    7. If we were to go hybrid, how do I deal with some people in the office and some remote? Is that the same as how it works as distributed teams before? (My definition of remote is that your entire team works away from the office while distributed team means the teams spread out in various locations in the world, but they collocate physically in the office in each of the location)

In the following newsletters, I’ll go deeper into the remote leadership and management challenges. In the meantime, I’d like to know what your opinion and decision are regarding going fully remote or hybrid or everyone goes back to the office. What are some of your criteria or hesitations in making those decisions? Drop me a note. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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