In many recent client conversations, they express the desire to continue to work from home or go to a hybrid schedule. They also share that most of their teams don’t want to go back to the office. Executive clients universally express a desire to get back to the office in person, at least part-time. Many clients have delayed going back to the office or are phasing in their new hybrid schedule and trying to motivate folks to return at least a few days a week.
On LinkedIn and Twitter, I see countless articles pointing out that most knowledge workers really don’t want to go back or want to go back on a limited basis. This matches what I am hearing anecdotally from almost all my clients.
But what to do if you are a leader of a team that must be in the office due to your industry or their roles?
Before I answer this, I’ll share a story from what feels like ancient, pre-covid times (3 years ago). I was visiting a client on a Friday afternoon. At some point in our meeting she said, “I have to come in on Fridays because otherwise it’s the ‘completely empty management wall’ on most floors.” I looked at her quizzically. She proceeded to tell me that her team (and many others) were expected to be in on Fridays but most of the managers worked from home on Fridays. All the leaders’ offices were on the exterior wall of the building. The cubicles were spread on the internal parts of the floor. Yes, it’s kind of awful, but it’s still pretty common. The Friday I was visiting, all the offices on her floor were empty, except for hers.
She didn’t like the message it sent. She worked for a large global company. Working from home was not possible for most of their work force and she thought it sent the wrong message that rank and file needed to show up, but the management didn’t. She felt it looked like a double standard. I agreed.
If everyone can work from anywhere in your organization – great. But if some roles need to be on site and you are an organizational leader, especially at a senior level, you should be present for them, in person, at least part of the work week. Your presence sends the message that they matter to you, that you care about them enough to show up and that even though you may not need to be there, because they are, you want to be.
We are living in unpresented times. Equity in corporate practices and policies is being carefully watched by many of your employees (and it probably always was). So how you structure your return to work really matters. Extra attention, care and communication in crafting your remote or hybrid work policies will pay dividends. One of the worst things you could do it create yet one more policy that smacks of privilege, especially for those who have the privilege of leading others.
As you decide your return to work, make sure you don’t have an empty “management suite” or wall or whatever. Your presence is required to inspire and motivate the teams upon which your business depends.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 21 years ago to collaborate with leaders, teams and organizations to create more productive, effective, and human people systems and practices. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.