why your return

Why Your Return to Office Hasn’t Gone According to Plan and What to Do About It

This On-Demand event was originally presented on May 10, 2023 (60 min)


The return to office for many companies has not gone as expected, with three-quarters of companies reporting that bringing people back into the office has not gone as anticipated. This raised the question of what went wrong and what can be done to improve the situation.

To address these questions, Wayne Turmel will discuss the issue in a candid and interactive webinar, providing valuable insight into how to better manage the return to office process and ensure a smooth transition for all involved. Attendees will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with the return to office process and how to address them.

Attendees will learn

  • The top four ways your return to office didn’t meet expectations.
  • Why we underestimated the Endowment Effect.
  • Figuring out what’s right for your team and organization: In-office, Remote, or Hybrid?
  • Why “pilot before policy” is SO important.


Wayne Turmel is a writer, speaker, and co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. For 25 years, he has helped people communicate effectively to lead employees, teams, and projects. For the last 12 years, he has focused on learning the skills necessary to survive – and thrive – in the complex world of remote work. Wayne is the author of 12 books, including Meet Like You Mean It – A Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings and The Long-Distance Leader – Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, which he co-authored with Kevin Eikenberry. He has worked with clients and spoken at conferences around the world, and Marshall Goldsmith has called him “One of the most unique voices in leadership.” Originally from Canada, Wayne now lives and works in Las Vegas.

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Why Your Return to Office Hasn’t Gone According to Plan and What to Do About It

Training Tools for Developing Great People Skills

This event is sponsored by HRDQ. For 45 years HRDQ has provided research-based, off-the-shelf soft-skills training resources for classroom, virtual, and online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games, HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more.

Learn more at HRDQstore.com

On-Demand Webinar Recording
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Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar: Why Your Return to The Office. Hasn’t Gone According to Plan and What To Do About It, hosted by HRDQ-U and presented by Wayne Turmel.
My name is Sarah, and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions or comments, please type them into the Questions box on your GoToWebinar control panel. Wayne will be using that a lot throughout today’s session, so make sure that you locate that. You can actually chat and say, hello, where you’re coming from, using that, that questions box there.
You can also locate your handout for today, you can find the handout under the Handouts drop-down on your GoToWebinar control panel, as well, and today’s webinar is sponsored by HRDQ, for 45 years HRDQ has provided research-based, off-the-shelf soft skills training resources for classroom, virtual, an online training, from assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games. HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more.
You can learn more at HRDQstore.com.
And I’d like to welcome today’s presenter, Wayne Turmel, Wayne has spent 20 years in the field of remote work and virtual communication. He’s a master trainer and consultant with the Kevin Eikenberry group, and is the author of 15 books, including The Long Distance Leader and the Long Distance Team. His latest is written with Kevin, “The Long Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone Success” is out now. You can actually check back on the event page where you registered for today’s event for a link to those books there.
And thank you so much for joining us today Wayne.
Thank you so much for having me. It is always a pleasure to be part of these HRDQ webinars. I have a ball, hopefully people do, to piggyback on something Sarah said a moment ago.
Yeah, use the questions box. I want to hear from you. I will be soliciting your input and will be sharing some of your questions and your thoughts.
Know, I’d rather this not be one of those. Put your phone on mute and go answer your e-mail kinda deals.
So, here’s what we’re going to talk about in our time together.
We’re gonna start with four reasons that return to office didn’t meet expectations.
Been talking to a lot of people the last year and a half, and when we ask the question, as returned to Office going, there are a few who say it’s terrific.
There are a few who goldfine with that face, your wife gives you when she really doesn’t want to talk about it. And there are people who, like event, I’d actually like to ask you, I know we’re not actually doing a poll, but that’s your RTO goin’ if you’re here. I’m guessing you got questions.
And then we’re going to look at some of the reasons that it hasn’t gone the way maybe we expected or hoped. And one of those reasons is something called The Endowment Effect.
one of the main reasons that things haven’t gone, maybe as expected, is that people didn’t know what to expect.
And so, we’re going to talk a little bit about the difference between in an office remote or hybrid work. People use that word a lot. And in the words, when Niggle Montoya, I don’t think it means what you think it means. We’re going to talk a little bit about hybrid.
We’re going to talk about something that my co-author, Kevin Eikenberry, talks about a lot which is the idea of pilot before policy. And one of the main reasons RTO didn’t happen.
The way that we expected it to is because we didn’t do pilot before policy.
Um, then, finally, obviously, for the people on this call, besides getting year sherm credits and all the good stuff there, therefore, it’s how HR can help leaders and employees thrive. And then, I’m looking in the, in the chat here.
Couple of people said, it’s been, stop, and go at my word, which is what I hear a lot.
And then, we’re all live at this point, meaning, I guess, live back in the office, But you’re hearing stuff.
That’s from Susan. And where’s it, Jen? Thank you so much for that.
So, here we go.
Here’s what we’re hearing, working with a lot of it. And, by the way, things change on a daily basis. So, I’m giving you the latest, as I have it.
Some of you may be aware that the Federal government, I think, two weeks ago, put out an edict after almost 2.5 years of telework. They suddenly said, within two weeks, we’re expecting everybody back in the office to make it happen.
And some organisms, we worked with organizations who were incredibly prepared for that. We worked with others who are scrambling and panicking, and some who are sticking their your fingers in their ears, And going, la, la la la La, I’m not listening to you. And there’s a lot of that.
So here’s what we’re hearing, unexpected events, upset plants.
This is the talk up ASA stuff happens, Claus, I’ll give you an example.
We work with an organization, healthcare organization. They were very, very clear on how they wanted people to return to the office. Everybody did, and then two weeks later, the office was empty because covert rip through the office, and everybody went home, again.
Stuff happens.
That’s, I’m a firm believer, if you want to hear God laugh, tell them your plans.
Just stuff happens is part of it.
one of the challenges that people are experiencing is, OK, we’re letting people decide, you know, they want to come into the office, Sometimes they’re not. But that can make collaboration difficult because we don’t know who’s where on any given day.
I turn to the person at the nest desk and the next desk is empty today whereas there was somebody there yesterday and scheduling, all of that is making things interesting for people who do go back to the office.
They’re finding it that it’s hard to get work done If I’m working remote and people are in the office. I’m kind of being ignored if I’m in the office.
There’s people there, and there’s noise and socializing, and I don’t know what your experience has been with that, but one of the challenges that people are experiencing and one of the things that we urge you to talk to your people about, and put some structure around, is maybe what work gets done, on what days and in which locations?
Because, know, there are days when, I mean, remote work started because a lot of us used to sneak work home and work on a project uninterrupted. And then I’m back in the office, and Bob is pontificating. And, you know, how Nancy is. And there’s cake in the break room for somebody’s birthday.
Maybe one of the funniest answers I’ve ever gotten, when I ask people how it’s going, and it’s not funny, because it’s a legitimate problem, but the way the client phrased it was so fabulous.
First of all, she said there’s still too many meetings, and now their hybrid, I mean, if I’m not on Zoom, I’m in conference room B, and I can’t get any work done, um.
You know, and we’ve got people in the questions saying, hey, I can’t get anything done in the off switch.
My way of thinking defeats the purpose of being in the office.
But we’ll, we’ll talk about that.
The funniest response, though, was, People have gone Ferrol.
They have forgotten what it’s like to work in an office. They have forgotten their manners, they have forgotten what it means to wear shirts with buttons.
People are just rude and obnoxious to each other.
and it turns out, I’m not an animal psychologist, but my understanding is if you have an animal that is domesticated and you let it run wild for awhile and make its own decisions and then try to bring it back into the house, you’re going to have some issues.
And this I’m being facetious, I am not comparing human beings to wild animals.
Fair play.
There are some issues there, and I hearing that actually quite a bit.
So, what are the factors?
All right?
What are we finding is behind all this swell, one thing is, of course, that nobody really knows anything.
Uh, you know, we do the best we can. We plan for it.
We don’t know what’s going to happen. Rules: change, regulations change, politics, change, people change, and, so, nobody really knows what’s going on.
The second problem is that the leadership, with all the best intentions, and we always assume positive intent, the policy, whatever policy you returned to office policy, you came up with was set by leadership.
And, well, dig down into that in a minute. The third thing is the endowment effect. We’re gonna give you a little bit more of that.
And there’s something called the great mismatch, and we’ve gone through these waves of things that we’ve heard about, right, first there was the great return, we’re all migrating back to the office. And then there was the great resignation. And people were quitting left and right. And it was going to be the end of business, as we know it.
And then there was Quiet Quitting, which used to be known as what a big percentage of the population did anyway, which is do the bare minimum amount of work necessary, not to get fired.
And all of this, I believe, stems from something called the Great mismatch, which is actually a mismatch of expectations.
OK, so, when leadership sets the policy.
And I am not ticking on senior leaders.
But we’ve all read the reports, we’ve heard people saying, it’s time to get back to business, And if you don’t come into the office, you know, don’t even think about having a career. And we’ve heard all of this. And there are reasons that this happens.
And some of them, by the way, are legitimate reasons, if I work in an industry where networking and collaboration and socialization is an important part of the culture. And I became successful that way, it’s reasonable to assume that that’s how you’re going to be successful. I want my people to be successful.
That is legitimate to a great degree.
But a lot of the return to the office tends to glorify the past as if prior to March of 2020, we all work in the Garden of Eden.
And, while we may have liked working in the office, and it may have been fine, and we, we did it just fine.
I’m willing to bet that there were complaints that there were problems, that there were things about working in, any given, central location with all of your colleagues and peers.
That wasn’t what it could be.
And a lot of people are desperate in the name of maintaining corporate culture in the name of kind of getting back to normal, which is a giant quotation marks.
They tend to glorify the past a little bit.
The challenge with that is, first of all, we didn’t work in the Garden of Eden. And second of all, there are three years worth of new hires who don’t remember the before times.
They weren’t part of that office environment. As a matter of fact, if your organization is hiring people out of school, you’ve got three years of new hires who not only don’t remember what it was like to work in your office, many of them have never worked in an office ever.
Certainly not full-time, and so, assuming, well, we’re going back to normal. Well, what is that?
Right? Even with remote work, oh, you know, remote work is just like being in the office, but we have webcams that’s great if you know what it was to work in the office.
And one of the things that people weren’t crazy about, uh, in the days when we were, some people were working remotely. Some people wanted to work remotely.
Some people worked in the office, is that a lot of the HR and performance management systems automatically defaulted to those in the office.
If you’re in the office, you’re gonna get the cool assignment. Obviously, you care about your job, more than those slackers, who don’t want to face a commute.
You know, if you’re in the office, you are going to get better for performance reviews, better feedback from your manager, probably better assignments and delegation.
All of those things happen, then we’re going to discuss some of that in a little bit, and it’s human behavior to do that.
But now that we have fewer people spending full-time in the office, whatever your return to office policy looks like, that’s going to be a problem, right?
If people don’t think they are being given access to their managers, and people think, well, yeah. I don’t have to go into the office, but I’m going to be left behind, I’m not going to be promoted.
No, they don’t care about me, they only care about people who come in every day.
You’re going to have problems and bigger problems, with turnover and engagement, some of those things that we saw in the before times.
And one of the, the things, and this is A fundamental problem with the way the workplace works, is that the leaders created this policy with the best of intentions, but with the business in mind.
And one of the things about return to office that we’re hearing is that workers feel a little bit disrespected.
There are a couple of things that happened when we moved two remote work, so suddenly as we did, The first is most people didn’t ask for that right?
Was thrust upon them And people responded and they, they struggled to make it work and they found ways and they put in the efforts and in fact, employee engagement scores actually went up the first two quarters of code.
And people, as a couple of you have pointed out in the, in the question box.
In the last three years, people have made adjustments to their lives.
They’ve changed their childcare, They’ve downsize to one vehicle.
They’ve actually moved because they didn’t have to make that commute every day and to be told, that’s great, Thank you for doing all that.
Now, get your butts back into the office, feels like they’re being unacknowledged and unappreciated for the effort that they put in.
whether that’s true or not now.
I don’t have a slide for this so I’m going to ask you to stick with me.
As HR departments around the country and honestly around the western world, are looking at returning to office, there’s not surprisingly a bell curve of stuff that’s showing up.
You’ve got about 10 or 12% of people who could not wait to get back to the office, either they’re not cut out to cut from the home, they’re scared. They’re work style doesn’t fit it. They don’t like the people, they’re trapped in the house, Whatever, the reason.
There is 10 to 12% of people who just want to get back to the office to make it happen.
You’ve got another 10, maybe, 14, 15 present, numbers varied, of people who don’t ever want to go back to the office, they’ve tasted freedom, They’ve been let out of the band, and they don’t ever want to work full-time in an office environment.
Again, And then, you’ve got the vast majority of people in that bell curve, who are, you know, understand, yeah, we need to get backwards advantages to being in the office, but maybe they’re looking for some flexibility.
They’re looking for the ability to maybe work remotely more often than they were before, you know, that they don’t want to go back 100% of the time. They will, because they want to get paid.
But they’re looking for something else.
And if the organization is not willing to adopt that, it can feel very, very insulting.
one of the first mistakes that organizations made and this lasted about two weeks before everybody realized what a mistake it was was the original plan was organizations were calling it return to work.
And if you just had the same reaction that most people had, which was excuse me, what do you think we’ve been doing?
Oh, X two years, Uh, that had to change.
So when leadership sets the policy, and there isn’t sufficient consultation with the rest of the organization and with people, these are some of the things that happen.
Now, some of this disrespect feeling some of this resentment, it’s just people being people, right, change is hard. People don’t want to change. OK, great, I’ve changed, Are you happy, Oh, now I’ve got to change.
Some of it is that, Uh, But a big piece of it is something called the Endowment Effect and the Endowment Effect.
Those of you who work in benefits, for example, Kim probably relate to the idea that people value things that they already have more highly than they value potential things.
It’s another way of looking at loss aversion people’s natural psychological response, most people is to prevent the loss of something, even if they could gain something in return.
Anytime you go through a change, the endowment effect is part of this.
No, I’ve gotten used to, I’ll give you an example of the average knowledge worker in America, essentially got a $2000 raise, or more by staying from home, wear and tear on the car, commuting costs, parking, eating, lunch out, whatever.
They kind of got used to that.
Well, now they’re gonna have to spend that money again.
Because the company is fault. No, probably not.
But all of a sudden, it feels like they are giving something up.
The ability to schedule their lives a little bit more, to have more flexibility in their schedule might not even be a dollars and cents cost.
But when people feel like they’re giving something up, you’re going to get that resentment and that, initial pushback, the challenge with that can be overcome if there is conversation that sees the change as a net gain, or at least not completely neutral.
And when the company message is, come back to the office, because we said, so, come back to the office because we’ve got this real estate in downtown Chicago that’s sitting empty.
Those aren’t compelling answers to a lot of people who feel like they’re giving stuff up.
Again, welcome to the world of being being employed, right? Your worker manager pays you, they expect you to be there. All of that is true. But this is some of the reasons for the foot dragging.
And maybe a little bit of resentment and this comes down to, and I did not phrase this, come up with this phrase, and I can’t entirely find the original source for it.
But I’ve been finding a lot of stuff that talks about the great mismatch. What mismatch are we talking about?
Well, it’s the perceived point of view between the organization and the individuals when it comes to returning to the office.
And so all of these things that we’ve heard about, the great, resignation, quiet, quitting, all of those things that people have been talking about, it all kinda stems from this.
Right? First came, the great resignation.
And people said, you know, some degree and people said, You know what, I like not working in an office, I like, not commuting.
I like my lifestyle now, and if I have the choice between returning to the way things were three years ago and what I have now, I’m going to find something else to do.
And this is the, like I say, 10 to 15% of people who were unsatisfied enough with the way things were, that they went looking elsewhere.
Interestingly, when we talk about the great resignation, nobody has really acknowledged the fact that there were two waves of this.
The first wave was, no, I’m not going back. I’m gonna find a full-time, remote job. Thank you very much.
And that was kind of the initial hit. The organization’s tuck.
A lot of you in HR might be experiencing this, which is, let’s say, six months ago, you started to return to the office and people started coming back and now there’s a second wave of job changes.
Some of these stem from fears that the organizations are going to re org or lay off, and they’re getting out while the getting’s good. A lot of it are people who went, oh, yeah, I remember, I didn’t like this the first time.
So there’s a second wave of the great resignation that’s kind of happening now.
And the third thing that is part of this great mismatch is quiet quitting, which it’s a phrase I hated when it came out. I railed against it then.
But basically it’s if the organization doesn’t care about me, I don’t care about it.
If my manager is insisting that I do all this stuff and not getting recognition for the work that I’ve done in the last little while and I, nothing has changed.
Anything that wasn’t great in the office still isn’t, and it’s making me crazy.
I want to stay employed.
I need the paycheck, so I’m gonna do the bare minimum, and this is a challenge with remote work.
Here’s what we found about remote work employees and engagement, which is different than satisfaction, by the way.
Employee engagement.
The employees who work remotely or have flexible schedules that they’re happy with, and are engaged in their work, are the most engaged employees you’ve got. They’re not going anywhere. They’re great teammates.
They put in a lot, a lot, a lot of effort, and they’re your, They’re going to be your stars.
The people, however, who are actively disengaged, which in most organizations, is almost a third of employees to start with.
That’s going to be a challenge with remote work, because there isn’t the peer pressure that goes with having everybody in the office.
And it’s interesting how organizations are addressing this.
I had somebody say to me, you know, As a manager, I’ve spent the better part of three years being empathetic and and Kind of letting people find themselves and do all that. Can I go back to just making sure they are working?
Can I go back to managing their performance?
There’s kind of a feeling that you know, we’ve gotten kind of soft mushy and now it’s time to get back to the office. I would warrant that that is a performance management challenge.
that is a leadership challenge that can be addressed with remote and hybrid work.
But you have to address it.
So, what does the return to Office look like in your organization? And, again, I’d love to see some of the answers here.
But are you primarily in office, or are you primarily remote, or are you going to be hybrid?
And I want to talk for just a minute, about what Hybrid really means.
A hybrid, whether you’re talking about an animal, or a fruit, or whatever, it’s the offspring of two animals of different species coming together to make something new.
And a lot of people look at hybrid work as a compromise and as making the best of a bad situation.
It’s not the same as having everybody in the office.
It’s not no light when everybody was remote.
It’s this new thing and it’s kind of we’re making the best of it and it’s kind of like being in the office, except some people are on webcams.
But a true hybrid is actually something new. I was talking to Sarah before we were on the call by the fact that I lived on a farm for a brief period of time.
And if you know anything about donkeys and horses, you know that a meal is a different thing. It’s a different animal entirely. A gala apple is different than a mackintosh or Granny Smith.
It’s still an apple, but it’s something different.
and what I would challenge organizations to do is, stop thinking about hybrid as just a compromise.
The aim of hybrid work should not be to go back to what was before.
If that’s the case, just get everybody in the office.
Nor should it be just seen as a compromise.
How can hybrid work be its own unique thing?
What is different about hybrid work from the other ways that we’ve been working well? Hybrid work, when it works, is actually something new. First of all, it’s flexible.
It’s not just what work gets done, it’s, and where does it happen.
Those are the two obvious questions, but there’s a third component.
Hard work is flexible. It looks at time, in a new way.
one of the reasons that we are on Zoom meetings from morning till night is that our default way of communicating is Synchronous communication. When in doubt, have a meeting.
If you want to connect with your teammates, get on a Zoom call.
We’re on webcams from morning till night. I’ve been in this game long enough. I remember I spent the first 18 years telling people to put on their webcams.
And now I spend an inordinate amount of time telling them, no, nobody needs to watch you Eat your sandwich.
What’s important about hybrid work as if we’re not just looking at what work needs to be done and where does it happen?
We’re now looking at including the factor of time to achieve maximum productivity and innovation.
You know, there’s a notion that innovation happens in meetings, but we know that if you go into a meeting, there are politics at play.
There are social dynamics.
I don’t know anybody who’s ever left a meeting, and not gone, oh, you know what I should have said. Or, you know, the question that I bought.
How can we use tine flexibility to get better input?
to make better use of our time?
Are there things we can do before And after actual meetings, to have fewer, but more productive meetings, thinking about the way that we interact, that’s should be the aim of hybrid work.
So how does Work Get Done is an important part of it?
And no pre coven, A lot of organizations were looking into remote work.
And they had a pretty defined list of what jobs get well, could be done remotely, and what jobs absolutely had to be in the office.
And you know what they found out.
They didn’t have the list exactly right?
Work can be done in non specific locations.
If we know, what are the connections? What is the workflow? Who’s involved? What are the outputs? How are we going to measure it?
All the things, the process, things that we need to know.
If we start with first principles, if we start with what is the work that needs to be done?
How do we do it, right? Who’s involved in that?
What’s time dependent and what’s not?
What’s location dependent?
And what’s not?
Then we start to think very differently, and we need to take time to ask those questions, because it’s not natural.
Our natural response we are hard wired for in person, communication. We are social creatures.
We use our eyes. Managers lead with their eyes all the time.
This is a problem with hybrid work.
Because we tend to see who’s in front of us. If you’re having a little bit of a challenge with the people in the office becoming this little click.
And the people who aren’t in the office as often feeling excluded, it’s a natural outcome of this very natural thing. Doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome.
But one of the big challenge is going back to work.
Unless you are going to be 100% in the office, one of the big challenges for leaders, for teammates, for HR is going to be proximity bias.
And proximity bias takes all kinds of forms. It can be as simple as I have a job I need to delegate. Look, there’s Bob. He’ll do.
And we hear this from people in the office. I can’t get any work done because my boss is always giving me the dirty jobs, and the people who work remotely are being left alone to get their work done.
Meanwhile, the people who are working remotely are saying things like, I used to get some cool assignments. I used to feel like I was important to the team, and now I don’t even hear about these projects or tasks until they’ve already been assigned.
A real solid example of proximity bias is when we ask people, how much feedback do you get from your manager, and what’s the balance of positive to negative feedback.
Almost without exception.
People who are in the office feel like they get more feedback and a better mix of positive and negative.
Then, perhaps we had, when we work remote, people who work remotely say they get far less feedback from their managers, from the organization, and when they do, it’s almost always bad.
They get far less positive feedback, we work that.
What’s present, what’s proximity bias, It’s the perception, sometimes the ria, colleagues and the organization treat people in close proximity different than they do who work elsewhere or out of sight.
As we’re putting performance management procedures in place, are we accounting for that? What are the metrics we’re using?
All our managers, evaluating the performance of people that they see every day, who come in, no ad, when the office opens, leave, when the office closes, obviously, they’re working. What about somebody that we can’t see?
What if somebody goes, do not disturb in the middle of the day? Does that mean they’re not working?
We need to help people get their brains around.
And so, we need to ask, you know, as we’re thinking about, what is the work that needs to be done?
And how do we do it in our new book, and I’m not helping the book, although, you know, if you’re interested, there it is.
But I think the thing is, we hear a lot about culture.
The reason that we need to return to the office is we need to preserve our culture.
And when we ask people, What do you mean by your culture?
It can sometimes be hard to describe now in, you know, in very kind of smart, awlaki, simple terms.
Culture is, This is how we do it here.
We’ve all heard that explanation of it. This is how things get done here.
The problem with that is defining what things, and so one of the features of the book that we spent a fair amount of time on, and as always, we spent a lot of time, and the answer turned out to be fairly simple, is, what are the things that make up culture?
As you’re thinking about the culture in your organization, as you’re thinking about, what do you want the culture to be going forward?
There are three pillars, if you will. The first is communication.
How do people communicate?
Technologically, how do they communicate? What tools do they have to do that?
Are we primarily face to face?
No knowledge work, white collar work.
For the first time in human history, 70% of our workplace communication is in writing, e-mail, teams, text messages, whatever.
Will we communicate?
Dictates a lot of how the culture is. When do we call a meeting? When do we send a text message? Or, do we rely on asynchronous tools? Do we over rely on webcams, those types of things?
The second pillar is Collaboration. How Does Work get Done?
Are we primarily a bunch of individual contributors who share a manager?
That’s a very different team than one where there’s team selling, or, you know, teams brainstorm to solve problems, Depending on where you work.
The answers to how do we collaborate are very different.
This is also where we start to look at things like synchronous versus asynchronous.
When do we hold meetings?
If we’re going to say, we want people in the office a couple of days a week, what are we doing with those couple of days?
Are we saying quiet? Solo work should be done when people are by themselves, and the meetings, and the brainstorming, and that stuff should happen. When we’re in the office.
You have to plan for that doesn’t happen, spontaneously.
Then the third pillar is cohesion.
How can we come together as a team?
Right? If your organization is built on happy hours and pizza lunches.
Remote work is hard to fit into that.
On the other hand, if people are passionate about their work and they’re connected and we intentionally build opportunities for people to work together and we create strong social connections.
It is possible most of you have experienced that teens that were together before the pandemic hung together really pretty well.
In some cases, the nuclear team actually got tighter when people worked remotely because they wanted to make it work.
So, the three Cs when you’re trying to define the culture in your organization, or maybe more importantly, you’re looking at return to work and saying.
We had this culture.
There were things that we liked about that, that were things we didn’t like about it, or things we would like to have going forward.
Just being able to ask the questions that clearly defined these three columns, can help you come up with a very clear vision of what your organization culture is going to be going for.
But you can’t just put a policy in place if we have learned anything over the last three years, It’s that if you put a policy in place and you make it rigid, you are going to get these kinds of outsize responses. You get people that feel disrespected.
You get people who feel like they’re not appreciated. They get people who feel like there’s no hope for them. If I’m going to continue to work remotely, I’m not going to have the career that I thought I had here.
This is why we look at something we call pilot before policy.
If you look at your return to office, adventure, right, whatever, whatever, the and try to avoid the pause to work, whatever your policy is right now, understand that it is likely to change.
And if you put a policy in place, and it changes.
Sometimes the reaction is, you lied to us.
Or you obviously didn’t think this out.
Or something.
If people go into it knowing that it’s a pilot, hey, here’s what we think We know, right.
So we’re going to try it this way and see how it works.
And there is a chance that it may change.
Taking that more consultative approach, organizations that really included all levels of the organization. And I don’t mean everybody gets their way. That’s not what I’m talking about. But your HR professionals, you understand these consultative conversations help create a better picture of what the answer might look like and how people are going to respond to it.
Once you come back together, and a lot of you are doing this now, is, you need to ask, How’s it going?
So, when you take this notion that this isn’t a policy, it’s a pilot, there is an assessment and adjustment that goes on, it also leaves room for the unexpected.
It gives people a chance to give it a chance.
And also hope that there is improvement. It’s not like we’re going to find exactly what works and lockett him forever, and it will never change.
And if your goal is to create real hybrid work, really change the way we think about when, how, where work gets done.
This allows it to evolve. It gives it some breathing room.
Just taking a quick look at the chat, making sure there’s no questions, or anything in there. By the way, we’re getting close to the point where, if you have questions, get them in there.
It address it, but how can HR help?
You are in the unique position to have these conversations at all levels of the organization.
From the senior leadership down to the front line, you’re doing the exit interviews. You’re having the recruiting conversations about what people coming to your organization want to have happen.
You have to have those conversations and you need to uncover the real objections. There are always going to be these knee jerk. No, I don’t want that reaction. We get that.
What is legitimate and what is, I don’t like change.
And by the way, the real objections go both ways.
Yes, why are people reluctant to return to the office, Why do people want more flexibility in their schedule is legitimate?
bunch of questions so too, is why is the organization so intent on return?
Is that because the business requires that? Is it because that’s the best way to serve our customers, or is it because that’s the way we’re most comfortable?
We all know everybody on this call knows, you know, five whys will probably get you to a real answer.
Going forward, are we creating development plans and succession plans for the organization that mitigate and include distance?
Are we helping leaders develop performance metrics that allow them to measure the work that’s being done remotely, and not just by the people who come into the office? Are we encouraging people who don’t work in the office every day to stay connected, to be involved in the organization, to infest socially, mentally, physically?
Those plans are largely going to come from you, and I will tell you that the number one thing we’re hearing about at the Kev Nightmare Group is we’ve hired a bunch of new leaders during Cov it.
And we don’t know how to get them up to speed.
That’s good to be part of your job. And then, as we said, with pilot versus policy, it’s constantly assessment.
It’s taking the pulse, and that is where we, in HR Play a really unique role.
So that’s why return to office maybe has been less than ideal, and maybe it’s been a little bit bumpy.
Some of this, you may have already found in and kind of figured out for yourself. Some of it, it’s probably nice to get confirmation that it’s not just you and not just your organization.
But there are some ways to think about it to make it more of a process, to make it less chaotic. And I hope that you’ve gotten some of that.
I would love your questions. We’ve got a couple of more minutes.
I would love to hear from you: thoughts, comments, questions, vicious personal attacks, uh, Bring it on. I am here and at your disposal.
Yes. So, let’s open it up, that Questions box, there. If you do have any questions or comments, do chat those, in. We have some time here to answer those, for you, today. And we have a question here from Anna saying, What if they disagree on what the desired?
I would be shocked if there was mass agreement on what the culture is.
one of the challenges with culture is that, what are we talking about, right?
There is a macro culture, which is, you know, if we think about the IBM way, Right?
that’s a macro culture, but marketing, Has its own culture. Bob’s team has its own culture because it’s managed by Bob, and so, you know, first of all, what level of the organization are we trying to define?
And think about how it communicates, collaborates, and forums, social cohesion. I’ll give you an example of this kind of disconnect. I worked last year with a bank and the CEO got up at their conference and very proudly said, we have survived the storm because we don’t take risks, We are very risk averse, We’re very conservative about our approach, and there you go.
But, 20 minutes later, he said we’re trying to attack, attract the best and brightest, and we want people who will innovate and think outside the box.
Well, if you are telling the world that you don’t take risks, and you’re telling your new hires that you want them to innovate and think differently.
There is a disconnect there.
So, what level of the organization are we talking about?
And then how do the three Cs, communication, collaboration, cohesion?
How does stuff actually happen in those three categories? And that will help define.
and I will bet you, that nobody will agree 100% on definition of the culture.
But if you do it right, most people will agree that that mostly sums it up.
I hope that helps.
And we have a question here from Wendy and Wendy says I was hoping we would learn lessons from the pandemic because the culture was bad pre pandemic to do rethink about how folks adapt to the culture, warts, and all.
Wow. No, that’s always the question, right?
Is this is our culture, Do we hire people that are going to manage to survive in this culture? And it would be nice if it was something else or not.
That I think we are in Shawn A brand new moment in time, and this doesn’t happen very often.
I think the invention of the internet was one, the invention of the smartphone was another.
In its own way, I think.
The pandemic was one of the inflection points.
We learned a whole lot about ourselves. We learned a lot about our connection to work.
We learned a lot about what roles can be done remotely and what can’t, and we’re in this moment as we’re thinking about returning to the office now, where we can ask these questions if we don’t ask these questions now.
We’re gonna go back to being in the middle of whatever culture we’ve got and just trying to help people cope with it.
If we really want to change the culture.
Now is the time to ask these questions and see these definitions. And I know that sounds very aspirational and whatever.
But think about before the pandemic.
Were people willing to have these conversations?
Were people willing to actually sit down and talk about this stuff and start to plan for it? Or was it just something that we get to someday when the craziness stops and we catch our breath?
Well, we’re about to start running again.
So now’s the time to have those conversations. And it starts with assessing. Ask people. We have a bunch of questions in the book.
If any of you want a list of the questions to ask, to help assess your culture, drop me a line. I am more than happy to get back to you.
Uh, it’s a handout that we give to people who read the book.
But now’s the time to ask those questions, because, if you don’t, six months to a year is going to be too late, unless you’re starting from scratch.
But the boat’s in the water, so it’s going to be ask those questions now, and ask across the organization, means you’ve got 100,000 people.
You know, you’re probably not going to hear from all 100,000, but you’ll want to hear from enough of a cross-section that you can see what is the difference between the aspirational culture?
What’s the culture? Well, let me put it this way. What’s the culture you think you have?
What does the assessment tell you is the culture that you actually have, then, what is the culture that you want?
And it’s all going to start with those conversations and those questions.
And let’s see here, it looks like we have time for one more question coming from Sean, who says, during covert everything was remote, Syrah Commute, time to work, and any other outside work activities was non-existent, and that commute time can now add up.
You had the extra time that they could fill with new activities. So now that people have come back, that work-life balance has changed and things must be compressed, something has to give, what do we do?
I am not Eric. I’m pretty arrogant guy. I am not arrogant enough to tell you that there is an answer because it’s going to depend where you are in your life.
For example, the people most eager to return to the office.
Are your new hires and your younger employees?
Why? Because they’re still learning the ropes. They’re learning how it works. It’s also a big part of their social life.
They meet people at work, they network, they learn from people, people who are, I’ve got a, I’ve got a family, my career’s pretty sad.
I’m not trying to be CEO.
My willingness to put up with a commute is going to be radically different then somebody who’s new and young and eager in their career.
And so, for every organization, for every person, it’s going to be different.
Um, what’s going to be important is that organizations recognize that people have gone through this change. And if you do not acknowledge the change, if you do not.
Allow people some degree of flexibility. And you’re saying no, it’s all or nothing.
That’s where you get the violent swings. That’s where you get people quitting. That’s where you get the chaos.
I am of the opinion that if you give three people, or if you give people three years to actually stop and think about their life, they may make choices. They wouldn’t have made three years ago.
You can’t not acknowledge that organizations that allow for flexibility.
Organizations that respect work-life balance, more perhaps, than they did pre pandemic, are going to be an advantage at a business advantage.
For recruiting, retention, employee engagement, most of the metrics that companies say they’re interested in.
But every organization is going to have to decide that for themselves.
Great, and with that, I’ll conclude our Q&A portion of our webinar today. And just to share this one comment that Laura just shared, and Laura said: “I love this. This is such an important conversation. Thank you.” – so, yes, thank you for for sharing such somewhat information with with the audience today.
It’s been my absolute pleasure.
Please, please, please, you know, if you are interested in this discussion, connect with me on LinkedIn.
If you would like the list of questions that I talked about, you can drop me an e-mail or send me a LinkedIn connection.
It is my honor and my privilege to partner with HRDQ on these.
We do it, usually a couple times a year, and I’m always delighted to, to connect with you all.
Yeah, it’s always great having you come on board, when you always have such fun and engaging sessions at best. Thank you so much for joining us. And that brings us here to the top of our hour. Thank you all for participating in this week’s webinar. And you can join me next week, as well. If you’re if you’re interested same day, same time, we’ll be doing learning without lecturers at another great session. So make sure you tune in for that. Otherwise, I will see us in. Thanks.

Listen to the podcast

In this episode of the HRDQ-U in Review podcast, we have Wayne Turmel, a writer and trainer with over 25 years of experience in communication at work, focusing on remote and virtual communication for the past 18 years. Wayne joins us to discuss his recent webinar, “Why Your Return to Office Hasn’t Gone According to Plan and What to Do About It.” During the webinar, Wayne highlighted key takeaways such as the need to navigate the changes that have occurred in the past three years and the importance of involving employees in decision-making processes. He also addressed the Endowment Effect and the great mismatch between company expectations and employee desires. Wayne shares insights on striking a balance between involving employees and maintaining efficiency, as well as preparing leaders for the challenges of the remote and hybrid workplace. Join us as we delve into these topics and explore the evolving landscape of soft-skills training in organizations.
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