Returning to the Office with Heart

The power for authentic leadership is found not in external arrangements, but in the human heart.” Parker J. Palmer

For many, the long-awaited day of returning to the office has arrived.

Good-bye pets on desks, pajama bottoms and board meetings from the basement. Adios to hiding from kids in the closet and fighting with spouses about dibs on the quietest room in the house. It is with great excitement and relief many of us venture out into an official office setting.

If it were only that simple.

From Google to Walmart, VW to the World Bank, organizations are bringing their people back into the office in droves. With the gradual return of in-person work, school, and socialization, it’s important that leaders nurture this newfound resiliency and empowerment by building a return-to-work plan that is both mindful and exclusive to the business as well as the needs of employees.

How will you lead – mindfully and compassionately – your people back to the office?

From euphoria to trepidation millions of employees are dealing with an array of emotions hitting them each day. Whether fatigue from a 2-year pandemic, or heartbreak and shock from the war in Ukraine, hundreds of our clients and their organizations are dealing with heavy times to say the least.

Where can leaders begin?

First, acknowledge the awkwardness that comes with a transition this large. Take it slow, be flexible and ask your workforce what they need most:

What’s your biggest challenge?

How can we help you adjust?

Setting clear expectations for the organization yet allowing each team and individual a certain amount of flexibility for their unique circumstances builds trust and eases apprehension. Instead of enacting strict policies and setting an immovable return date, commit to, and prepare for, an open-ended transition. Stay current on health and safety practices, heeding the advice of licensed medical professionals and legitimate agencies, while soliciting feedback from employees about their concerns and preferences.

As you lead your teams back to the office here are a few tips we are seeing work well:

  • Start with heart – Allow yourself and your team to experience and voice the depth of emotions that arise. Whether you’re returning large groups to work full-time or creating a hybrid environment from scratch, it’s important to meet people where they are and listen to their needs. Empathy and patience will go a long way with your workforce.

  • Focus on a routine – Create self-care routines that keep you grounded. Simple things like meal prepping, setting out your clothes the night before, mapping out your workout and commute schedule can all help. Set clear boundaries about when you will enter and leave the office, what work will be done while you are there, and role-model it for others.

  • Embrace what you can control – Your mindset is the number one factor you can control with this transition. It may not be easy, but it is necessary to take time to invest in your mental health with exercises that support you. That may mean meditating, listening to a podcast, journaling or taking Friday afternoons off.

  • Be hopeful and find gratitude – Look for the silver linings in coming into the office. Whether it’s getting to see coworkers, grabbing coffee from your favorite café or having silence on your commute, there are many positives to be found.

Here are articles we found helpful on the topic:
Don’t Let Returning to the Office Burn Out Your Team
Say Hello Again to the Office, Fingers Crossed
How to Overcome Return-to-Office Resistance

If you would like to receive impactful leadership tips and tools in the coming months, be sure to join our email list. Thank you for being on this journey with us. Spectrum Leadership Solutions Team