Lucy Adams
May 18, 2021
Reading time: 6 minutes
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Right now many leadership teams are trying to work out what their future workplace will be like.

Will it be:

  • all back to the office
  • 2-3 days a week at home
  • personal choice or
  • remote only?

Getting to a decision can be tricky as there usually lots of personal agendas floating about! Based on our experience of helping leaders arrive at some conclusions, we’ve produced the following Do’s and Don’ts. We hope you’ll find them helpful if you are having this type of discussion.

Do’s

  1. Get them to acknowledge their personal preference at the outset. (It will be helpful to know, because they’ll tend to assume everyone wants what they do!)
  2. Avoid applying ‘old-thinking’ such as 2 days in the office and 3 days at home. This will probably end up not pleasing anyone! Instead, try and think about the ideal activities to be done face – ‘moments that matter’ to your sustaining your culture. And allow managers and to work it through with their team members based on what works for them.
  3. Keep your options open. Whatever your decision, you can always agree that you’re going to ‘suck it and see’. There’s no need to box yourself into a corner when things are still uncertain.
  4. What’s right for you and your culture. And think about how you can differentiate rather than following the herd?
  5. Reflect and remind yourselves how productive and agile people have been during lockdown. We’re still hearing some leaders talking about working from home as an indulgence! Maybe show them this short video around creating a ‘better normal’ before you start the discussion.
  6. Challenge sentences that start with assumptions about ‘everyone’ wants, eg: ‘everyone can’t wait to get back’ or ‘everyone wants to carry on working from home’. It’s always going to be less black and white than that.
  7. Think shorter and longer term. Of course, you’ll need to have your immediate response to recovering from the pandemic, but also use this opportunity to think about how you’d like it to be in the future when you might have more flexibility to look at things like office leases and employment contracts.
  8. Have conversations about how your choices can be helped to work, eg: an equally positive experience for remote and office based, keeping collaboration going, supporting managers to have better conversations, changes to meeting practices, etc).

And now for some ‘Don’ts …

Don’t (or try not to) …

  1. Make it overly-complicated, eg: detailed role-based decisions or specifying certain days, etc.
  2. Design around the lowest common denominator (ie: badly behaving employees or managers who are worried about having to make judgments and have conversations they might find difficult).
  3. Assume that the office is just for collaboration. Whilst important, there are people who might just prefer to work there (eg: people who don’t have much space or young kids, etc).
  4. Try and manage it from centre. One size can’t fit all. Allow managers and teams to work it out locally.

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