This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Citrix and Wrike. The opinions and text are all my own.
Ask 10 of your friends what their return-to-work plan is and you’ll likely get 11 answers.
While some companies have happily granted their employees permission to work from home indefinitely, others are eagerly implementing plans to transition employees back to the office. Still others are opting for hybrid work models – encouraging employees to split their weeks between home and the office.
So how are workers responding to these changes, after a year of mastering the fine art of ring lights, pajama bottoms, and virtual backgrounds?
To get a pulse of the people, I recently published a series of Twitter polls – in partnership with Citrix and Wrike – to unpack some of the trends, challenges and misconceptions about the future workforce.
We heard from more than 300 people, who shared their biggest concerns about returning to the office (“lack of flexibility” snagged the No. 1 spot) – 41 percent of participants said their ideal work scenario includes one or two days per week in the office.
As a digital media consultant and proud WFH-er for more than a decade, here are my top three takeaways – along with my tried-and-true tips for how to make the future of work … work for you.
1. Ask and you shall receive. 56 percent of poll participants cited lack of flexibility as their biggest area of concern when transitioning back to a physical office. (24 percent of participants cited health concerns/COVID-19 as their No. 1 concern, while 13 percent of participants are most worried about childcare.) To ensure flexibility is a part of your new work life, talk early and often with leadership about your needs – especially if they have changed since you were last in the office. A parent whose child needs help logging into online classes each morning may no longer be able to make the 8:00 a.m. morning meeting they once led – while another colleague who is caring for an elderly family member might elect to be more cautious about physical interactions. The takeaway? Your leadership and HR departments want to hear from you as they iterate on what works best. And don’t worry: Just because a protocol is one way today, doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. In fact, this illustrates the importance of embracing a roadmap to design a scalable/adaptable employee experience and hybrid work strategy to: a) empower individual progress b) partner across the organization (like IT and HR, among others) c) deepen empathy from human insights
2. Exercise empathy. 54 percent of poll participants said they are not looking forward to going back to the office. (19 percent are looking forward to returning, while 27 percent said: “It’s complicated.”) And can you blame them? One in three people knows someone who has died from COVID-19 in the last year, while so many others have general concerns and anxiety about safety in the workplace. Even your most relaxed colleague may have health conditions you weren’t aware of – or be caring for someone who is unable to get vaccinated. My advice: Don’t just dive into the agenda at your welcome back meeting. Ask your team how they’re doing – and pause to truly listen. Exercising empathy – and patience – as we reconvene in person, is essential. As Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Citrix, notes, “When you’re ready to improve your team’s well-being, take a holistic approach and examine how you can improve it through each facet of the employee experience.”
3. Collaborate and listen. The No. 1 challenge that poll participants experienced over the past year? Collaboration. Nearly 36 percent of participants cited collaboration as their biggest challenge while working from home, while productivity was a close second, earning 30 percent of the votes. On top of that, 63 percent of participants said their company has not integrated any new collaboration tools since the onset of the pandemic. If you’re part of this group, consider a project management tool like Wrike, which enables teams to set timelines, prioritize tasks, and streamline processes using custom workflows. Hey, even the San Francisco 49ers use Wrike to remove the complexity and noise from work, empowering their teams on and off the field.
Change can be scary, but remember: Most companies are still in the early stages of figuring out what works, and perhaps equally importantly – what doesn’t – as employees return to the office, continue to work remotely or adopt a hybrid approach.
Asking for flexibility, exercising empathy and focusing on new ways to securely collaborate are vital to giving yourself – and others – the smoothest transition possible.