This year has been full of change and challenges. With nearly three months left and an ever-evolving situation, there’s still more of both to come.
One of the challenges you face in your workplace right now is striking the right balance between remote work and return-to-office policies. Being able to open the office and invite everyone back is exciting for many of your team members. They may be looking forward to routine, the convenience of the office, or even just socializing with team members.
Others may not wish to return. They could be facing challenges at home, with caregiving responsibilities or juggling online learning for their children. Others are leery about workplace safety measures, and yet others want to avoid the commute.
You have your work cut out for you, balancing many conflicting needs. Developing the right policies is key so that everyone can work well and be happy.
Determine Who Is Eligible for Either Remote or In-Office Work
The first step to balancing remote and return-to-office policies is determining who is eligible to work in either environment. Some positions must be performed in the office. Some tasks require equipment that’s only available on-site. Other positions can be performed entirely via remote work, so you might wonder if you need to invite these team members back.
Next, you should consider balance. Is it fair that some employees must come to the office every single day? Is it fair that remote workers never have to show up other than at online meetings?
You may want to ask that people performing certain tasks come to the office. You could also ask remote workers to pick a day or two per week when they’ll have “office hours” and be present on site. Or you might allow team members who need to be on-site the chance to perform some tasks remotely or to take a shift or two remotely if their job allows.
Putting Limits on In-Office and Remote Hours
As you seek a balance between remote work and in-office staff, you’ll want to think about any limitations. If the office is open, are there limits on how many hours team members should be working remotely?
You might ask employees to minimize the number of hours they’re in the office, especially if many of their job functions can be completed remotely. You could put restrictions on the number of people in the office at one time, which may mean team members must limit their hours or rotate their shifts.
Flexibility is key, as you want to ensure both remote workers and in-office team members have a fair chance of working in either environment. You don’t want anyone to feel they “have” to be in the office when it’s unsafe or brew resentment that some people get to return to the regular routine of working in the office.
Create Consistency for the Team
Creating consistency is one of the bigger challenges more generally. If people are sometimes working remotely and sometimes working in the office, how can you create consistency?
Ask the team to craft schedules that they’ll adhere to for the week. You can assist them, especially if you want to use rotating shifts or schedules.
While flexibility is key, so is consistency. You don’t want to be so rigid that you won’t let parents have an afternoon off to collect their kids from school, but you also don’t want to be so flexible nobody knows who will be in the office or who will be online to answer questions at any given hour.
Ask team members for their projected availability, then build a schedule around it. Once you have this base down, you can work to be more flexible within the framework.
In turn, you should be able to balance both remote and in-office work, as well as balance in the schedule.