How to Support Remote Employees Transition Back to the Office
As companies struggle with the decision of getting remote employees back to the office, the process can be challenging for those who working remotely. As they transition, employees will have to face some challenges, such as traveling to new work locations, adapting to a new working environment, and adjusting to new work schedules. Transitioning back to the office can negatively impact employees’ well-being and productivity. Undoubtedly, this shift is going to be tough. In this guide, we’ll explore some challenges remote employees encounter and strategies recruiters and HR departments can implement to ensure a smooth transition.
Challenges Remote Employees Face while Adjusting to In-Office Culture
Those with a habit of working remotely know the upsides: flexibility, more personal time, freedom, and others. When it comes to in-office vs. remote work, employees might come across many challenges transitioning to the office role, including:
Daily commuting seems to be a major issue for employees when they have to get into a work-from-office culture. It can be time-consuming, especially in places with heavy traffic and long distances between office and home. The time employees spend on traveling eats up the free time they have in their day. Not just this, there are additional expenses, including travel costs and parking fees. With remote work, employees used to save these commuting costs and use those bucks for other priorities.
Remote work depends majorly on digital communication tools such as emails, business communication platforms, and more. But, when employees are required to shift to the office environment, face-to-face interactions become the first mode of communication. Most remote employees have the habit of carefully composing their messages when they collaborate with their colleagues. In an office, real-time interactions require quick responses and immediate answers. This transition can really be challenging for those introverted and socially anxious employees.
Distractions and Productivity
People who have always worked remotely generally set up their workspace in a way that minimizes distractions and improves productivity. BusinessDIT revealed in its survey that interruptions and distractions result in an average daily productivity loss of 2.1 hours. After getting distracted, it takes around 24 minutes and 15 seconds for employees to refocus on their work. Remote employees were free from office noise and other distractions but returning to the office can hamper their productivity.
Strategies to Support Remote Employees Transition Back to the Office
1. Buddy System for Onboarding
Employees new to an in-office culture should be paired up with colleagues already familiar with it as “buddies.” Buddies help newcomers understand all necessary information. It includes helping them navigate the physical workspace, meeting rooms, break areas, and other facilities. Not only that, these onboarding buddies educate newcomers on the unspoken rules of workplace culture, benefits, and company policies. This onboarding system is especially valuable for remote workers unfamiliar with office culture who may feel disconnected and isolated – providing moral support as they get acquainted with the in-office culture. Make sure the buddy/supervisor has a great performance history so other employees respect them. New employees who had buddies at work were 23% happier during their first week and 36% happier after 90 days compared to those without buddies, according to this HBR research.
2. Workspace Personalization
Once the employees transition back to the in-office roles, let them create personalized workspaces so that they can enjoy the working experience. To maintain a professional environment, it might be beneficial to set clear guidelines for customizing each employee’s work area. It means they should know what items may be displayed, decoration levels allowed, and restrictions to maintain. Getting employees the flexibility to choose chairs and desks that best suit their preferences can give them comfort and satisfaction. Additionally, provide them with a secure personal storage area such as lockers where they can keep their belongings. To keep the environment more soothing, incorporate natural elements such as plants and other materials. The best thing you can do is to keep on taking employee feedback on workplace design, policies, and amenities to check if their needs are addressed.
3. Inclusive Team Building Activities
Are you planning for some great inclusive team-building activities for managing remote employees returning to the workplace? Start by organizing an informal get-together, such as lunch or snacks, where every team member can interact with each other. Keep a relaxed and comfortable environment so that they share their remote work experiences without any hesitation. Since they are habitual of working remotely, provide training sessions focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion so that they respect everyone’s identity and background in the workspace. Insist them to share their personal stories, unique experiences, and cultural backgrounds to promote empathy and understanding among team members. Remember that not all employees are extroverts and that’s why you must include activities that are suitable for everyone.
4. Regular Transition Check-ins
Create a set schedule of check-in meetings – either weekly or bi-weekly – with these employees. It will help them feel included and engaged with the office culture. You can plan beforehand what you will discuss in each meeting, such as important topics like company updates, project progress, and cultural insights. Explain the objectives of your check-ins so all team members understand what to expect and participate actively, especially those who have recently moved into the office culture. Create a comfortable environment where these people can freely express their ideas, thoughts, challenges, and suggestions to foster a positive culture of collaboration. Holding regular check-ins can do a great job of addressing any problems employees might be having during the transition phase. Help them with practical resources, guidelines, or training materials to assist them with effectively adjusting to an in-office environment.
5. Transportation Support
Commuting to the office can be a real hassle, especially if the employees have always worked remotely. You can establish shuttle services for your employees that will pick them up from a location and drop them off at the office. Also, you have the option to provide reimbursements or subsidies for employees who make use of public transportation to travel. This can include train passes, metro cards, bus passes, or any other form. Provide incentives such as financial rewards or parking spaces to encourage employees to carpool. Help them connect with other employees who live nearby and want to carpool. Additionally, it will be great to offer them some level of remote work flexibility even after the transition to the office to reduce daily travel and make them comfortable.
6. Recognition of Adaptation
Firms must recognize and show appreciation for employees transitioning from remote work to in-office roles by acknowledging and showing gratitude in tangible ways. Thank-you notes or direct conversations with managers can play an invaluable role in showing your appreciation and acknowledging their efforts as part of their adaptation journey. Public recognition during team meetings, company-wide announcements, or internal newsletters also highlights their achievements and impact positively.
Some real rewards like cash bonuses, gift cards, or extra time off make employees feel appreciated. Offering professional development opportunities aligned with their roles expresses that you are committed to their growth. Also, host some special events that feature leadership messages or celebrations to highlight their contributions. Companies implementing such strategies foster a culture of recognition and support as employees navigate this major transition in their career journey.
As part of your onboarding strategy, consider using video interview software during the onboarding process. Video interviews are an invaluable way for remote employees to meet their new in-office colleagues and managers. They allow face-to-face interactions even before employees step foot inside the office building, helping bridge communication gaps while building familiarity among all involved parties. It can also make the interview and orientation process more efficient and convenient both for remote employees as well as HR departments.
For remote workers coming back to the office work, having a plan is crucial. Commuting, communicating directly, and dealing with new distractions are among the challenges associated with this transition. To make the move smoother, there are various helpful strategies. Buddies can help familiarize new office workers with their surroundings, and having a flexible work schedule will ease their transition. People should also have the freedom to customize their workspace however they wish. Team activities can help everyone bond better, and regular check-ins and learning sessions will keep things on track. Showing gratitude through giving rewards shows that hard work is appreciated. These steps will allow companies to assist remote workers as they transition back to the office successfully.