5 Ways to Optimize Your New In-Office Time

Trying to get the most out of an in-person experience can be harder than it seems. Read on for a few ways to get past your roadblocks.

If your organization is just now getting a grasp on hybrid work, you’re in a sweet spot—lots of organizations have already trod this path, and they know a thing or two about managing the process.

Still, you may find yourself struggling to find a balance between the spark of in-person work and the comfort of the home office. And if you’re leading a team? That challenge is doubled.

But the benefits of going back into an office in a hybrid setting are widespread, and one of those benefits is a dampening of the effects of “quiet quitting,” according to Alex Alonzo, chief knowledge officer with the Society for Human Resource Management, whose organization conducted a study on this topic in September.

“When asked specifically, a good number of them reported as a qualitative finding that the symptoms that they were seeing of quiet quitting in the workplace, even in the hybrid setting, were mitigated to some degree by having people be in office and almost forcing the social aspects of work for them,” he said.

Having a built-in invitation to be “on” can help motivate some—but those who would still rather work from home will benefit from knowing that their time in-office is truly of value. If it feels like they’re getting something out of it, the time spent commuting and chatting with colleagues will feel valuable, not wasted.

Alonzo shared these tips for helping teams develop trust in the value of office time:

1. Build Collaboration Days

One of the most important things organizations can do to make hybrid work useful is to develop days where specific teams or even the entire staff goes in just to collaborate, Alonzo said.

The idea is that having shared in-office days builds in organic opportunities for collaboration, thanks to the greater possibility of spontaneity and stronger team focus. Designing a shared schedule also helps employees embrace the social and mental health benefits of being in an office.

“One of the things that we see repeatedly is that it’s easier to be a mental health ally, or a mental wellness ally, if you’re actually seeing all of the person and actually interacting with them,” Alonzo said.

2. Use More Collaborative Meeting Formats

If employees are going into meetings that are essentially one person talking in front of a whiteboard or computer screen for an hour, employees might rightfully feel that the tradeoff isn’t worth the commute.

Alonzo pointed to the work of bestselling author Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has made a case for building more structured meeting formats that are more engaging and make the most of attendees’ time.

“Your meeting agenda has to have the opportunity for everybody to contribute to an idea,” Alonzo said.

3. Lean Into the Data

Listening is important for any leader. Data can enhance that.

Asking employees to share their feedback—and then paying attention to what you learn—can uncover opportunities to better meet employees’ needs, since you’re making the people on the ground a part of the process. Soliciting direct feedback is important—so, too, is doing frequent “pulse surveys” into how things are going.

“What you’ll see is that many organizations want to use that data to understand how they can better serve the needs of the workers,” Alonzo said.

4. Incentivize Returning

Getting people to come back out of their shells after a long period of remote work can prove difficult, in part because the experience may have made us more introverted—and may even have helped introverts excel.

The gains made for introverts don’t have to be lost with a return to in-person work, though. Alonzo recommended implementing incentive programs, including bonuses and increased travel subsidies, and starting a recognition program that celebrates effective in-office collaboration.

“We’ve seen things even like the traditional gift card that will help somebody return to the office and have a positive experience,” he said.

5. Share Your Challenges, Too

If rank-and-file employees are having a hard time with in-office collaboration, they might not want to share those challenges with leaders, for fear of not being seen as a team player.

One way around this is for leaders to be honest about the challenges they may be facing with the new environment, Alonzo said.

“It helps draw out people’s own experiences, and it helps people kind of should be willing to share more if leaders are willing to show their vulnerability,” he said.

(boggy22/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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