As we head towards autumn, many people are making plans for a return to office working, a light at the end of what has seemed a long dark tunnel and a resumption of ‘normality’.

But, if you’re a little nervous about returning to the office, take heart that you’re not alone. After so many months working remotely, the thought of taking up the commute and having to shed the pyjamas for work can be a little scary!

So for leaders everywhere, we offer a few tips to prepare the team to transition into the office.

1. Reflect on Success

Take some time to understand how your team has been working successfully whilst being remote, to inform the things that need to change once you are in the office. Paradoxically, many people have felt more connected while working remotely. People have had equal opportunity to contribute and participate in team meetings - and the online water-cooler talk has been more inclusive, too!

2. Retain the Focus

Remote 1:1’s have been more productive as conversations have been focussed, less inclined to meander into less productive chat. As these tend to be scheduled, people often find they have answered the questions they had by the time the 1:1 takes place and the important topics get quality air time.

3. Keep it Real

Conversations in the past eighteen months have been more open and honest - even with customers! Every meeting has involved a shared moment where talk moves to how we’re doing and things we’re looking forward to. Having a window into our home has broken down many barriers! So, let's keep it real.

“Work-life balance isn’t just about separating work and private lives anymore, it’s about making space for work and life to co-exist.”

4. Remember to Listen

Ask your team how the return-to-office plan affects them. Your office may be re-opening but some of the people that work with you may not be ready. Ask them what the barriers are and then do what you can to help. A return to office working will impact everyone differently, so be empathetic and don’t rush people.

5. Re-Connect as People

Finally, check in with the team's motivations, so you can meet them where they're at. People’s motivation and values may well have changed after an event like the COVID-19 quarantine. Reset your understanding of what people need from you. This will help you to communicate better, assign work more thoughtfully, and, overall, keep your team engaged during this transition phase.

In summary, keep positive practices going into the office. Find creative ways for communication to flow and keep that playing field even!