In “Returning to the Office More Than Just Calling People Back,” labor and employment partner Susan Kline outlines how employers should approach workers returning to the office for HR Daily Advisor.
“Employers should be thoughtful and intentional about articulating the reasons why on-site work is necessary,” said Kline. “That rationale needs to go beyond organizational leaders’ preferred work style and look to the responsibilities of all personnel who are required to do at least some work on-site.”
Kline noted that there might be “value in personal encounters that occur when people are working in the same space for mentoring, building stronger interpersonal relationships and creating greater opportunities for spontaneous idea generation and problem-solving.”
“For many employers, it’s time to hit ‘reset’ on performance expectations,” Kline explained. “If expectations have been lax because of the limitations of remote work or recognized personal challenges, employers need to gently let employees know that although things are far from the way they were going into 2020, ‘We are now at a point where full-time best efforts are required, and accountabilities will be re-established.’”
“Allowing employees to have input into how performance should be evaluated going forward can help managers gain insight into team members’ challenges, their new ideas that have come out of our shelter-in-place experiences, and their career development plans and desires as they may have evolved over the last year and a half,” Kline added.
Regarding wage and hour concerns, Kline said the longer the remote work model continues, the greater the potential for legal exposure in a number of key areas. And in response to mental health issues, she stated, “This is an area where managers likely need specific training, both to recognize when an employee may be struggling with mental health challenges and to know how to provide support without running afoul of laws like the ADA,” which can be a “delicate balance.”
Kline also said that leaders need education about resources available to employees as well as for themselves, and the labor shortage makes that education even more important. “Employees may be overworked, which contributes to their struggles, and supervisors may be leading departments that are understaffed, making it difficult to prioritize supportive one-to-one interactions.”