How should we approach the return to office work? What new role will offices play now that we’ve had the experience of smart working for such a long period of time?
If we would have thought about it 4 months ago, we could not have imagined that the willingness to return to the office could be low and, consequently, actions to motivate staff to return to sharing collaborative spaces would be necessary. But what are the emotional obstacles to returning to the office?
Talking to different clients, partners and acquaintances, we’ve heard a lot of voices:
“I’d rather work from home so I don’t have to relate to that co-worker I just can’t stand”
This is the most quoted deterrent I’ve heard so far. Working from home would almost seem to have polarized relationships. Where there was a positive bond, it was strengthened by feeding off the reciprocal support that was received. On the other hand, where the bond was broken or hiding a latent conflict, social distancing was the “perfect” opportunity to not address critical situations and distance oneself.
How, then, can we take care of a return to the office, including the possibility of returning to interface with what was uncomfortable for us, and perhaps spur us on to take that extra step by addressing latent conflict?
“If I work from home, I can do things my way, without having to engage with others”.
Working from home has been an opportunity for those people who are reluctant to teamwork, to reinforce a solo approach to work, bypassing listening to the views of others involved in or impacted by their work.
How can we stimulate confrontation in those who have this attitude and who are less natural in a smart-working setting?
Drew Coffman by Unsplash
Focus on wellbeing
“Working from home allows me to invest the time spent travelling from home to work in wellness activities”
Also often returning is the fear of having to give up the personal wellness spaces that are possible to carve out while working in a home environment. Whether those who relax with a nice shower on their lunch break, those who do yoga in the morning, or those who spend more time with their family. In this period, in fact, it seems to have been rediscovered the beauty of devoting time to oneself, of rediscovering one’s passions, the pleasure of doing the little things, like baking a cake.
How can we put a value on this pleasure, making it an added value also for the organizational activity?
A re-founding moment for the team
Returning to the office does not only mean revising physical spaces to comply with COVID-19 regulations, it also means re-imagining social spaces within which people can share creativity, innovation, dialogues, human relationships.
Starting from the above observations, I believe that returning to the office needs a refounding moment of the team – in which to look each other in the eye and “redefine” ways of sharing thoughts, spaces, actions and emotions.
This pandemic period has been a real break from the lifestyle we were used to, we are no longer the same people we used to be. Investing time to reconnect, to share what has become really important to us during this period, can be a way to reactivate social relationships among colleagues who, because of the presence of a screen, have been distant during this period.
If, on the one hand, smart working has given the opportunity to explore new work-life balances, it has on the other hand created excellent alibis for not dealing with critical situations that had been latent since before. So here’s where re-encountering in this new post-COVID 19 context can be an opportunity not only to create a new way of working, but also to take care of and transform, with more consciousness, what was dysfunctional before.
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