Meeting with some employees on videoconference and others in modern meeting room.
With continued COVID vaccination efforts, many businesses are planning a return to the office. Creative approaches for this return can benefit the business and employees. — Getty Images/ insta_photos

As COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue across the country, more and more businesses that had gone remote during the pandemic are encouraging employees to return to the office, in some capacity. Leaders are faced with the decisions of how and when that return happens.

If you’re feeling hesitant or conflicted regarding your decision and strategy to get back to in-person business, you’re certainly not alone. Here are some creative approaches to returning to work.

Top priorities for returning to work

Returning to work after an unprecedented worldwide pandemic has left many business owners overwhelmed. To forge a smooth path, however, leaders are focusing on these three priorities:

Invest in tools for virtual collaboration to support hybrid work

Since remote work is here to stay for many businesses and industries, leaders are beginning to invest in tools that support a collaborative yet hybrid work environment. In fact, 72% of U.S. executives are planning increased investment in tools for virtual collaboration, according to PwC data.

Employees’ preferences for remote work

Because many workers got accustomed to the remote work life, 44% of employees now want to work remotely at least three days a week, PwC found. As a result, business leaders are finding ways to embrace a hybrid work environment and allow their teams the flexibility to work from home as they please.

Now, leaders are trying to rebuild and cultivate their company cultures by supporting employees who are close to burnout, allowing parents to have more flexibility with work, investigating new working models and more.

Maintaining company culture

With the uncertainty of the pandemic came a shift in many priorities of working professionals. More workers focused on their home and personal life or tried to merge it with their work life. This, coupled with the work-from-home mandate, impacted company cultures of businesses across various industries.

Now, leaders are trying to rebuild and cultivate their company cultures by supporting employees who are close to burnout, allowing parents to have more flexibility with work, investigating new working models and more.

[Read more: Leading a Hybrid Team? Here’s How to Create and Maintain Your Culture]

Other considerations for your return to work

Here are a few more factors that may impact your approach to an in-office return:

Remote versus in-person balance

Tech companies like Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook and others are largely leaving the decision on remote work up to their employees, while other companies like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America have had a stricter policy about in-person expectations. Allowing your employees to choose what works best for them can be a great way to build trust and keep them satisfied.

The hybrid work model has become an attractive option to many employers who’d like to strike a balance between remote and in-office work. Simply being flexible with your expectations and recognizing that your employees have lives outside of work will increase their appreciation and respect for your business, and will help you retain your best workers.

Vaccine mandates

According to a Gartner survey, the majority of companies are strongly encouraging vaccinations but not mandating them; however, there are many big companies that are requiring all employees to get vaccinated before returning to work.

This decision is entirely up to you as the employer, but it could impact your company culture either way. Be sure to also be aware of any religious or health reasons for an employee who is unable to receive the vaccine.

[Read more: Considering Mandating Vaccines for Employees? What Small Businesses Need to Know]

Redefining the new work world

Because COVID-19 changed the “traditional workplace” so drastically, business owners have had to work with employees to recreate the ideal space, environment and culture in the post-pandemic world. Most employees (and employers) have reevaluated their priorities in life and are searching for companies who will empower them — both professionally and personally — through flexible arrangements, opportunities for collaboration and compassion amidst it all.

Talk to your workers, one-on-one and in a group setting, to gauge their preferences, and be sure to take each into consideration. Remember that you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) create the same work environment as your competitors or other businesses in your sector, as your needs are unique to your business. Rather, focus on developing a work model that best suits you, your employees and your company’s needs.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published November 09, 2021