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RTO: Are You For or Against?

By October 3, 2022No Comments

Should I go… or should I stay? 

This is the question many employees are asking themselves right now. Quiet quitting is not a new idea. Social media tried to make it a new thing, but it’s not. TikTok gave it a label, but for many years employees have checked out of their roles, looking for something new before they found their new job.

COVID changed how we see work and our workplace. It allowed us to take a minute to see what we really wanted and the lifestyles we wanted to create for ourselves. The past few years have included a variety of personal and professional traumas—each of us has experienced life (and COVID) very differently. And, in that space, each of us have very different ideas of what it means to be part of a workplace.

With the start of fall has come the news that an increasing number of employers decided it was time to trade our sweat pants for suits and our sneakers for stilettos. Return to Office (RTO): three dreaded (or welcomed) words, depending on how you look at it.

Have you noticed we are quite confused?

  • We don’t all want to be back in person full-time, but we do miss people.
  • We don’t all want to be home full-time, but we all miss the ease of being in our home sometimes.
  • We feel unsure, unable to understand why we can’t find our rhythm.
  • We have forgotten how to act; we have become socially awkward at work, or forgotten office etiquette

Not only that, leaders are exhausted.

  • Leaders have tried to lure people back to the office with all kinds of incentives, with mixed results.
  • They’ve compromised, offering RTO Tuesday – Thursday and at home on Monday and Friday.
  • Employers are concerned about being too strict about mandatory RTO and risk losing top talent.

Sound familiar?

Many of our clients require a mandatory return to the office (RTO). They’ve shared with me that there are mixed emotions among employees and leaders about this.

Remember, it’s a privilege to work from home. It’s a privilege to work that many people don’t have. Many employees are feeling privileged right now. Some team members wonder if they are just being asked to return to justify the rents of commercial buildings, some question why their leaders need to see them if they have been getting their work done just fine remotely.

While other employees crave the face-to-face time, separation of work and home, and office environment.

No matter where you and your company fall on the RTO spectrum, one thing is clear: it doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an introvert or an extravert—we have forgotten how to navigate this new flexible workplace.

Earlier this year, we hosted a Return to Work Webinar and during COVID we wrote a gazillion articles on this topic, you can access them all here.

5 Strategies to help your team stay focused and engaged in a flexible work environment: 
Define Expectations

  • Determine what is best for your team, the work you do, and the clients you serve.
  • Remember, It’s not a one-size-fits-all policy.
  • Have clear conversations on what each member needs to be their most productive self and be a team member

Reestablish Boundaries

  • Remember, some people who have forgotten basic office etiquette are out of practice.
  • Find a nice way to share that you have work to do and you need to focus.
  • Don’t just start a conversation in the hallway that might distract others.
  • Don’t heat up that leftover tuna casserole in the microwave (vomit).
  • Don’t use speaker phone (any time ever in an open space).
  • Don’t linger around someone’s workspace because they have forgotten how to tell you to go away nicely!

Communicate Clearly

  • Set up office rules (again) when you are trying to focus i.e., door closed, a sign, headphones—one of my clients has red/green on the back of their chair so as you walk up, people can see if they are open to a conversation (green) or not (red) = easy peasy.
  • Agree on a meeting cadence that suits the entire team for maximum impact.
  • Share your concerns with the team when things aren’t working as you’d hoped.

Educate Everyone

  • Remember, technology is your friend here.
  • Create a different out-of-office message daily to help colleagues and clients know your movements.
  • Remind voicemail callers that sending you an email is a better way to get your attention or even a text.
  • Educate your leader on the agreed days your team will be on-site so that they can plan accordingly.
  • Educate your team members if you have commitments you have to attend to so meetings can be handled accordingly.

Notice everything

  • Pay attention if someone is trying to send you signals they are busy and can’t talk right now.
  • Notice if someone is sad and not contributing and might have declined an invitation to lunch with you.
  • Take note of the times of day people are sending you messages to keep an eye on their workload and mental health.
  • Be intentional with your attention to notice what is happening to those around you.

If we want to create luxury environments for our teams to feel engaged at work—no matter where they work—we must all remember that having a luxury mindset means understanding it’s about experiences, not things. 

What experience do you want to create for your team in your organization this month? It’s never too late to listen intently to what your team is sharing and take action in thoughtful and attentive ways.

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