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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 17, 2023


Ongoing debates remain about returning to the office. Here are some thoughts to tackle this often contentious topic.



Welcome to episode 178 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. Ongoing debates remain about returning to the office. This week we explore ideas to tackle this often contentious topic.

In many geographies the opportunity to return to the office following the worst of the pandemic has coincided with tight labor markets. As a result, employees often have more bargaining power than employers when it comes to workplace conditions and ways of operating. Many senior leaders want people back in the office, citing perceptions of collaboration and culture suffering under remote working. These views often align with their personally preferred way of working, and less so with the experiences of employees. Many employees are enjoying their new found flexibility and ability to give the commute a miss. They’re delivering the same level of performance, so why come in to the office? So how do we progress these conversations? Here are six steps to consider:

  1. Start with the work: This sounds obvious, but it’s important to determine the best way to work by starting with the results you’re after. We need to start with the why and what before we get to the how of the work. This should include consideration of how each job interacts with others.

  2. Recognise your own biases and interests: Write down how you prefer to work and be as detailed and honest as you can be. Have people in your team do the same thing. It’s easy to assume that the way we prefer to work is what everyone else prefers as well, but you will quickly learn from this process that isn’t true. We need to be careful not to inflict our preferences on others.

  3. Listen with respect: Be genuinely interested and provide space for people to share their opinions.

  4. Recognise that no one has best practice: It’s helpful to look at what organisations are doing around flexible work, but no one has it all sorted out yet. Be careful not to blindly follow the lead of others.

  5. Measure the right things: When changing the way we work, we need to be able to measure performance. Without that we are flying in the dark.

  6. Experiment: Rather than setting things in place for all time, try something for a month or two and evaluate how it went. You can then make adjustments. 

This experimental mindset will help reduce the level of debate and unstick many of the conversations around returning to the office. Give it a try and let me know how you go.