Welcome to The Great Return. Hundreds of employees flock back to the office, stampede staircases in formal shoes that don’t quite fit their feet anymore, and lug around too-new smelling laptop bags, dressed in the nowadays variety of smart-casual – jeans and an ironed t-shirt. The time before lockdown is a distant memory, as well as the accepted norms and standards. And many leaders are left wondering: What about the other C-Word?
Culture. Covid came and shook it apart. As people worked from home, they formed new routines, new rituals, and ultimately new workspace cultures. But now it’s The Great Return, and it’s back to the office, back to colleagues, back to the real Office Culture.
However, it’s plain to see that the Office Culture that once was, is no longer. With many employees returning with a renewed perspective of their work-life balance, a great deal of them are keen on a work-from-home-work-from-office hybrid work culture. According to the McKinsey and Company Global Management Consulting Firm, more than 50% of employees would prefer to work from home 3 days a week. Their statistics show that “30% of employees say they are likely to switch jobs if returned to fully on-site work”. Others have hopped onto the casual clothing train, donning slacks, jeans, t-shirts and tackies instead of their usual smart-casual suits. Tobi Lutke – the CEO of Shopify – seemed to sum up this evolution best in his tweet: “Office centricity is over”.
But, now the pressure is on you, the Leader, CEO, Employer, Boss. Everyone is expecting you to be the guiding voice on which way the new office work culture will go. Everyone is expecting you to make sure all your employees are happy to be back in the office, are satisfied with their working conditions, and feel supported back in the office. That is terrifying when you are still asking yourself: what was our company culture? More importantly, what is it now?
How will you stand firm in your company’s beliefs while still being flexible and allowing (some) change? How will you ensure that all your employees are happy with the changes that are made, and those that are not made? How will you lead from the front, to excel and take your team to even greater heights than before lockdown? How will you help to rebuild your office culture?
Leaders: here are some other C-Words to keep you Confident during The Great Return and the Great Rebuild:
Collaboration is on trend in The Great Return. More now than ever, your teams are ready and open to being part of the conversation. Invite them in to support you by collaborating on your old and new values in the office. Get their buy-in on some traditional ways that you feel strongly about, and open space to possible new values that could improve upon your company culture.
Keep communication lines between you and your employees open. Talk to them about who your company is, what it stands for, what its belief system is. Convey it to them, even if it might not be exactly what they want to hear.
Everyone’s eye is on you to lead them, so create the energy you want them to bring! Show up every day with the sort of culture energy you aspire to have in the office. Share it with your employees, let them feel it. Let them propagate it further.
Have the courage to stand firmly in your beliefs for what is best for your company. Say ‘no’ to influences that don’t support your company culture. Say ‘no’, even when you know many employees will want to hear ‘yes’. In the end, you are doing what is best to keep your company culture thriving.
Not everyone will support your decisions, but you, Leader, must guide your company to what you know is best for it. Stand strong. Stand fast. And Rebuild. For more tips on good office culture and the Great Return, follow Tower Group on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.