By George Fassett, Jr.

While Zoom, Teams, and WebEx fill some void in our ability to be around our co-workers when we aren’t really around our co-workers, being pent up at home has taken a toll, and the virtual water cooler chatter has finally turned to coming back to the office. This transitional time coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we begin to venture out and interact with friends, co-workers, and clients, leaders must make time to do it at a pace that suits the needs and culture of your company.

Re-entry into the office is starting to become a real thing.  While many large organizations are not being too hasty to enter the office environment again, many small and medium-sized businesses are moving not just from a hybrid environment but back to business as usual.  The states that have re-opened more than 50% (which is most) are at least in a hybrid environment for many. Those at 100% in the SMB world are asking people to be back on premises all the time or plan on being back to work all the time by summer end.

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What are you doing for your business?

Have you set up hybrid schedules yet?

What does that look like?  Are you preparing to move your office back to 100%?

School is almost out, summer is here, lets get back to the office 100% when school starts again?

Do your employees really want to work back in an office again? 

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In my last blog,  I explored this new frontier of broken management and constantly connected teams, and now I ask, is the output truly as good and high quality it used to be?  You may think so, but your clients may not.  Your employees may have changed their standards, hampered by a lack of access to quality work time, technology while working from home, or true in-office collaboration with coworkers and direct access to company thought leaders. These changes have to be addressed when you start building your re-opening strategy. Your clients are also re-opening, so “What is your plan?” Your employees may need to get back in the office more than you or more than they even know or realize.  Your clients might need it too. Don’t just decide from a top-level view; ask your employees, clients, and peers to see what is working and the pace of the rollout.

Airlines are saying that there is a pent-up demand for air travel who have been largely cooped up in their homes for the last year (Bloomberg, March 26).  Business travel is increasing as well, which is a reflection that clients want to see you back in their offices at the very least. While vacationers are essential, business travelers account for 12% of the passenger base but 75% of the airline’s profits.

(Trident Development Corp. – travel software firm). 

Many team members enjoyed breaking up the cycle of office life with travel, in-person client interactions, off-site conferences, and general flexibility in how they separated their work and home life. Like anything at first, working from home was a welcome change, but many are ready to return to work and a semblance of normal. Working from home has its perks, but home is happening while we are working.  People want you as the corporate leader to force breaking the cycle.  It is interrupting the quality of the deliverable, being organized to include the appearance of being organized, timeliness, and functionality when children, dogs, doorbells disrupting both, spouses also working, wearing clothes vs. pajamas, and the distraction of the next binge-worthy streaming episode on a TV nearby.

Equally, the late nights because boundaries are now crossed from home and work.  The non-stop screen-time is leaving little time to actually build the deliverable, or only being able to get that done late at night once you have some peace and quiet. In contrast, you may be able to handle this because you are the owner, the team leader, the CEO because you have done it before and are in it to win it. The challenge is on the others that struggle without saying anything. Those are the employees you want to think of when determining your next steps. Employee retention is ensured when leaders protect company culture and build real tools for employees to rely on for their mental health. More importantly, offering a space where employees can discuss their workload challenges with others and to say “I need help” without jeopardizing their place in the company is essential.

Being a leader includes knowing your team and where they struggle even when they are covering for themselves or being coy about playing along with the team.  Take the time to have honest discussions with them individually.

Their success is your success.

Let’s make a plan. 

While Zoom, Teams, and WebEx fill some void in our ability to be around our co-workers when we aren’t really around our co-workers, being pent up at home has taken a toll, and the virtual water cooler chatter has finally turned to coming back to the office. This transitional time coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we begin to venture out and interact with friends, co-workers, and clients, leaders must make time to do it at a pace that suits the needs and culture of your company.

Re-entry into the office is starting to become a real thing.  While many large organizations are not being too hasty to enter the office environment again, many small and medium-sized businesses are moving not just from a hybrid environment but back to business as usual.  The states that have re-opened more than 50% (which is most) are at least in a hybrid environment for many. Those at 100% in the SMB world are asking people to be back on premises all the time or plan on being back to work all the time by summer end.