Is Your Return to Work Plan Inclusive?

As you prepare for work after the pandemic, you likely know your organization can’t go right back to how things used to be. Some degree of flexibility with where employees work is now the norm. The question is, how much flexibility around working in the office is best?

The process for determining how and where employees work is just as important as the resulting policies themselves. Employees want to feel heard and part of the decision-making. Making that happen increases their understanding and morale — helping them get on board with the end result even if they don’t love it. 

A Step-by-Step Process to Gaining Diverse Perspectives

The process of creating a post-pandemic policy for where and how to work should be an inclusive one. Here are four steps to bring diversity, equity and inclusion principles to life in the process of creating new remote/in the office policies to ensure employees feel asked, heard and considered. Gaining diverse perspectives while focusing on important commonalities produce extremely beneficial end results.

  • Step 1: Start shared outcomes in mind. Consider and clarify what success looks like for your company from three perspectives: client/customer, company culture and employee engagement. What are the outcomes you collectively want to achieve in each category? Anchoring decisions in foundational and universal principles of success provides an uplifting and unifying rationale for your ultimate policy decisions.
  • Step 2: Focus on behaviors that drive success. Rather than focus on where employees work, focus on what it takes to contribute to desired outcomes. For each category above, identify the behaviors that most contribute to the desired outcomes described. 

For example, if a client outcome is that clients have a high degree of trust in us, an enabling behavior might be that we are very responsive to clients when they reach out and get back to them with thoughtful responses in a timely manner. How do we foster more of that behavior among employees? Consider pros and cons of working remotely and working in the office on the behaviors that enable success. How can the cons be mitigated? Reflect on behaviors that drive success and how to best support those behaviors. This goes a long way to inform when and how often employees should be in person versus when it doesn’t matter where they work.

  • Step 3: Get input. Informed by steps 1 and 2, put a draft policy in place and seek feedback from employees to fine tune, explaining the rationale around balanced success (client, company culture, employee engagement) and enablers of success that informed the policy. It is always easier to provide people something to react to rather than start from a blank page. Ask employees what they think about the desired outcomes and enablers of success. What do they like about the policy, what recommendations do they have and what from their perspective do they uniquely need to contribute to success.
  • Step 4: Test, learn and modify. Refine the policy based on feedback and put it in place with a test, learn, modify approach. That means you should proactively ask employees for feedback along the way and commit to revisiting and revising the policy based on their feedback. 

None of us have had to develop post-pandemic work policies before, so give yourself some grace. This most likely won’t be perfect right off the bat, Let employees know we are figuring this out together. How you make them feel throughout the process is just as important as the outcome.

Does your organization need help determining new policies and guidelines for where and how employees work? Contact me to help your leadership team facilitate this process.

Let's Connect

Beth Ridley is a former corporate executive turned organizational transformation consultant, speaker and author. Beth combines 25 years of global leadership and management consulting experience with expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to partner with leaders to transform workplace cultures to better achieve their vision and goals. Beth’s work is featured in national publications and she frequently delivers keynotes and workshops at events around the world. Beth lives with her husband and three children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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