Why are we still talking about returning to the office?

Published April 8, 2022
BLOG ARCHIVE

I’m finding myself growing frustrated around this conversation about getting back to the office. Why is returning to the office such a huge thing?

If you know me, you know that I’m a big fan of remote options and I think that if work is done on a computer in a chair without being customer-facing, there is very little justification to have people in the office full time. The savings of working from home are significant, and 10 years ago people were willing to take less money for the “privilege” to work remotely - but those days are done too.

Remote work should be the norm! What we should be talking about is how to effectively engage in a community remotely, how to lead effectively in remote environments. Hint; the tools are different! 

Before I go any further, I 100% acknowledge that there are jobs that are not a good fit for remote work. I also acknowledge that we still have a large customer base in the United States (largely early boomers and centennials) that prefers to be able to connect to a human—possibly in an office setting. So none of this is one size fits all. But organizations that CAN support remote work, and don’t, won’t be able to hire in the near future. 

Getting Ahead of The Conversation About Returning to The Office

The conversations shouldn’t be “hybrid or remote” or “getting back to the office.” It should be:

  • How do I lead a team effectively in today’s workforce?
  • How do I develop my team to be a high performing team?
  • How do I ensure we are all moving in the same direction organizationally?  

Learning to set meaningful goals with your team that align with the strategic mission of the organization is the first step.  If you do this well, you don’t need to manage people by seat time (although that is easier if you don’t like to navigate accountability, both for you and your team). If you’re unsure of the strategic mission of your organization or department—or how the team fits into that—you’ll likely struggle with feelings of mistrust.

This is not on your team, this is on you.

You have the responsibility to evolve in your leadership practice and understand how all the pieces fit together. You have the responsibility to help your team understand that. We know that people that are purpose-driven, work hard for leaders that show value in them. Will there be hard days, setbacks, and miscommunication? Sure. Is some of that easier to navigate when you can pop down the hall and chat it out? Of course!

But that isn’t today’s workplace, and you don’t get to manage people in 2022 the same way we did in 1992! Change is happening.  

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Meetings should only happen when you need collaboration or agreement among team members. If it can be done by email, start there. This means that you can use the meeting to share ideas, discuss actual challenges and solve problems instead of policy updates. DO NOT add more meetings just so you can see people working. 
  2. Help people identify their goals within their role and set DEADLINES. Manage to the deadline and keep people accountable for that. If they meet the deadline, why do you care when their butt is in a seat? (Seriously, why?)
  3. Recognize that everyone has peak operating times of the day. The beauty of remote work is that each individual can capitalize on that.  Personally, I do not function well from 1-3:30 'ish. A previous boss used to say I looked like I was melting at that time of day - but catch me at 6 AM, watch out world, I’m coming for you.

If you’re struggling to trust people working remotely, or navigating team development, remember that it is your role as a leader to evolve first. But I promise, the answer is not to “go back to the way things were.”  

Improving your tactical leadership practice

Did you know that self development can change the way you look at yourself in a leadership role? Maybe you are feeling doubtful in your role, or impostor syndrome is having a field day on your emotions. You know what the solution is? Training your leadership chops, because leadership is a learned skill. Much like sports, art, and other types of work that needs dedication, leadership needs practice.

Returning to the office isn't a cure all for all the things lacking in your every day leadership role. Consider gathering valuable and actionable knowledge instead, regardless of where your office is and how your team works.

For example, my Tactical Leadership Course will help you:

  • Identify personal mission and goals.
  • Make action plans to move a goal forward.
  • Identify team mission and goals.
  • Make specific action plans leveraging team member strengths.
  • Show mastery of moving between strategic intent and tactical action.

What are your thoughts about returning to the office? Do you see it as a necessity or an impairment? Could your organization conduct business just fine if it was remote? Then why isn't it?

Always feel free to connect with questions! 

Kristine Medyanik

Dr. Kristine Medyanik has been teaching business and psychology classes, for many years. She started Shattered Glass Leadship to offer boutique-style workshops that provide expert content to “level up” your daily leadership practice. She has an amazing husband and 3 growing boys and works hard to support local women-owned small businesses.
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