Managing Employee Morale with the Return to Office


April 12, 2022


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Returning to the office will cause a massive shift in your operations and your employees’ lives and workflows. They will need some time to adjust to the new normal, and your culture and morale might suffer.

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After over two years of remote work, 70% of businesses plan to reopen their offices to their employees this year. The majority will implement a hybrid approach of in-person and remote work. This shift presents an important opportunity for you to boost employee morale among those returning to the office.  

Returning to the office will cause a massive shift in your operations and your employees’ lives and workflows. They will need some time to adjust to the new normal, and your culture and morale might suffer.

What is Causing Low Morale?

There’s no denying that the pandemic was, and still is, a stressful time for most. Anxieties concerning health, work, and the economy are ever-present. Working from home brings in new distractions for most remote employees. That is especially true for those juggling childcare and work responsibilities at the same time.

While remote work has many morale perks, it also has disadvantages. Some of the top causes of low morale are:

  • Lack of socialization with colleagues
  • Feelings of isolation from the company
  • Lack of transparency
  • Adjustment to new workflows, workplaces

Ignoring these issues can worsen your employee morale and lead to a disengaged and unproductive workforce.

Why Return to the Office?

The world is entering the new normal. More companies are preparing to bring their employees back to the office, while others are choosing a hybrid model.

Every organization will have to determine the best approach for their people, but returning to the office is the best choice for many employers, their employees, and organizational and customer needs. For many, returning to the office means more spontaneity, socialization, and collaboration; a refreshing change of pace from the isolation of remote work.

How to Manage Employee Morale

Employees returning to the office may feel anxious and resentful of colleagues or friends who are still working from home. As an employer, you must do your part to ease those feelings and support a smooth transition. Here are some tips on how you can manage employee morale in returning to the office:

1. Clearly Communicate any Policy Changes

Many businesses changed their policies and rules to accommodate their shift to remote work. Reopening the office for your employees requires you to re-evaluate your current policies. You must make sure your policies adapt to the new normal; this means including policies on health and safety inside the office. You can also create a clear return-to-office checklist to help the project go smoothly. 

Most importantly, you must clearly communicate, socialize, and enforce these policies to build trust with employees. Make sure your employees can access these new policies anytime by sharing and posting them on multiple channels. Go above and beyond by hosting town hall meetings avenue for employees to ask questions, and make sure managers are all on the same page.  

2. Listen to Employee Feedback

Employee morale goes hand-in-hand with job satisfaction. When employees feel satisfied with their company, they are more motivated to do great work.

You must consider their wants and needs when planning their return to the office. Send surveys or forms to collect feedback on the subject.  

A recent survey by Owl Lab shows that 57% of employees prefer working from home. If that’s the case, it is better to slowly ease your employees into the transition. Instead of forcing everyone to go back to the office, you can offer hybrid alternatives.

You can also ask those employees who prefer working remotely for their suggestions or concerns surrounding a return to the office. This way, you can adjust your strategy and make the transition more appealing.  

3. Take it One Step at a Time

Going back to the office will introduce changes to your employees’ workflow. After years of working from home, they’ll need some time to adjust. It is tempting to makeup for the lost time by scheduling meetings and social gatherings, but these can actually hinder employee morale.  

Instead of overwhelming your employees so soon, ease them into the rhythm of in-person work. This gives them time to adjust to being surrounded by many people again. Organize small and simple activities instead of full-blown, company-wide social activities right away. Why not keep it digital to include all in-person and remote employees?

Employee recognition is a great way to boost engagement, productivity, and morale for all employees regardless of location.  

4. Create Opportunities for Socialization

One step at a time doesn’t mean avoiding social gatherings altogether. After all, some might be looking forward to seeing their colleagues again after being cooped up inside their homes. Create opportunities for socialization without completely overwhelming your employees.  

You can start by conducting face-to-face meetings per team. This way, they can start with smaller groups of people before moving on to a broader circle. Conduct activities that will require simple interactions among employees, like icebreaker games. And, of course, team lunches are always a good place for casual socialization.  

Group projects also give your employees opportunities to socialize with their colleagues. And by investing in the best collaboration software, you can make teamwork more effective and efficient.

5. Be Proactive about Providing Support

The rising awareness of burnout and stress requires businesses to be more attentive to their employees’ needs. Ensure your employees’ happiness to boost their morale at work.

You can do this by proactively providing support for your employees. Implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where you can offer resources to address personal issues concerning health, emotional well-being, and work performance. This can come in the form of short-term counselling, assessments, referrals, or support groups.

Most importantly, make sure that your employees are aware of the resources available within the organization.

Entering the New Normal

It is undeniably important to consider that your employees returning to the office will need some time to adjust to their new working environment. Use these tips to keep employee morale high during the transition. With the right strategy and tools, this is an opportunity to motivate your employees to feel their best and contribute great work.

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About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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