The Return To The New Normal

The Return To The New Normal

By enabling collaboration with the help of two-way communication, one can lead the pandemic driven crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the trust and the culture of the organisation, thus, increasing long-term engagement.


Over the past year, billions of employees across the globe have been working remotely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to break the chain of the infection spread. With the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations, especially those in India, have become more acceptable to the concept of work from home. According to the estimates by John Macomber, a Senior Lecturer for Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, the COVID 19 pandemic has accelerated the acceptability of work from home by 20 years.


While remote working has its pros and cons, a lot of organisations are now planning on bringing a certain percentage of employees, if not all, back to the office for the simple reason of reviving the live connection. In the book ‘Venus in Arms’, Criss Jami has mentioned, ‘An overindulgence of anything, even something as pure as water, can intoxicate.’


The same applies to work from home as well. A permanent remote working set-up can intoxicate the culture of an organisation. While technology will keep advancing with time, there is absolutely nothing that can replace the human factor. The return back to office, however, will not be the same as it was before the pandemic – it will be a lot more flexible, and offices will be a lot less dense in terms of employee strength at a single point in time.


Preparing employees to return to office


According to the 21/90 rule, it takes 21 days to build a habit and 90 days to build a lifestyle. With the COVID19 pandemic, being productive on a work from home day, which earlier seemed to be a highly challenging task, has now been proved otherwise. There is no denying that remote working was forced upon organisations and employees. It is obvious that no organisation would have chosen to switch to 100 percent remote working overnight, but over the year, employees have shown that they can adapt to doing their jobs remotely - quickly and efficiently. The return back to the office will not happen overnight, however, organisations and the management need to be patient for this to happen in a staggered manner as the remote working lifestyle that employees have adapted to over the past year will take time and effort to change.


The need to return to offices


The most tricky and complex question of ‘Why’ to return back to the office when one can work remotely needs to be answered to the employees. More than answering, employees need to be sufficiently convinced. This is because it warrants significant effort from both the organisation as also the employees to successfully return to the office. The lack of effort could result in utter dissatisfaction amongst the employees, thus, resulting in huge attrition for the organisation.


The criticality of communication


To make the employees’ return to the office successful, frequent communication with employees will be required in three phases – the pre-return phase, the initial return phase and the settling in phase - a few months after the return phase.


The pre-return phase: The pre-return phase could roughly range from one month to three months before the date of return to work from the office. This phase is the most critical, since, during this time, the organisation and the leaders get on to conversations with the employees in various forums like town halls, one-on-one discussions and other employee connect sessions and get the employees’ perspective so that they can plan accordingly. The sooner this conversation happens, the better it is for planning the return strategy basis the feedback and suggestions from the employees.


The initial return phase: Communication during the initial return phase is important to improvise the unanticipated and unexpected challenges that may come about. Considering the uncertain scenario of COVID-19, one cannot eliminate the need for real-time improvisations to make the return successful and more comfortable for the greater organisation.


The settling in phase: The settling in phase could range from two to four months of return to the office. During this phase, regular employee connect sessions could be of great help in collaborating the suggestions and ideas from every one to further come up with better solutions for more comfort and safety while working from the office with the New Normal.


Talking about workplace safety measures


The return to the office will involve a lot of safety measures and protocols so that the office can be a safe place to work. And, it is of utmost importance that the employees are aware of the routine safety measures they need to adhere to so that they keep themselves and the people around them safe.


Organisations could run internal campaigns and initiatives around COVID-19 and the New Normal lifestyle for employees’ daily life to keep themselves safe from getting infected. Since the current times of COVID-19 have never been encountered, it is best to phase out campaigns and initiatives for a greater understanding. Each phase could focus on what best could be done, what could be avoided and what must not be done to keep ourselves safe, especially when employees commence work from the office. It is critical what an employee does while coming to the office from home, while in the office, and while returning back home from the office, considering the nature of the virus. Such campaigns and initiatives would help organisations to create awareness and sensitise employees that they need to adapt to the new ways of working on their return back to the office postpandemic. This could further help organisations to come up with better and improvised solutions and ways to keep away from infection spread, thus collaborating with the employees for custom-made solutions. It will also help them to take advantage of the collective wisdom of all employees as well as leaders to make the workplace which best suits the employees as well as the organisation in maintaining everyone’s safety.


The return back to the office is not a one-man task. It will be a collaborative effort by every single employee within the organisation to come up with suggestions and solutions to make the workplace of his/ her choice. Lack of communication, collaboration and sensitisation would only result in employee dissatisfaction and the return to the office would end up as being forced and coerced. By enabling collaboration with the help of two-way communication, one can lead the pandemic-driven crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the trust and the culture of the organisation, thus, increasing longterm engagement. Like John Adams has said, “Every crisis is an opportunity in disguise.”



Pooja Bhasin is Senior Director - HR & Finance, Ticketmaster India who also manages the Legal and Compliance functions. She wields a professional experience of more than 25 years and has worked in leading organisations such as Motorola, GE, Citigroup, Fidelity and the ICICI Group. Pooja has an MBA in Finance and Marketing and is a highly passionate writer.


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe