How to overcome return-to-office resistance

Harvard Business Review

Although the pandemic has been a once-in-a-century disruption to business, navigating this challenge is no different than managing any other kind of organisational change with professional and personal implications.
The findings in a nutshell

While this paper gives advice to employers who may be encountering team members who are reluctant to return to the office following the pandemic, the principles apply across all sorts of change. Key to encouraging return to the office is consultation with your people and understanding how to communicate reasons for change.

Overview of the paper

This paper is useful for organisations that are committed to getting their people back into the office. It discusses how there are a range of attitudes and issues about return to work. Some people are keen to return, some neutral and others very reluctant. Reasons for reluctance are also varied – risk of COVID of course but also commuting, work/life balance and more.

Decades of research can be concisely summed up Figure 1, which can be used to understand where your people sit on a change, and then how to move them towards being comfortable (or more comfortable) with an organisational change.

First employers should understand who is in which category, then consult with active and passive resisters to understand the issues, expose neutral people to those who feel more positive, ensure you can optimally communicate the benefits of change and give active supporters a platform to discuss their positivity.

Implications for Australian workplaces

Whether an employer chooses to encourage their people back to the office full-time or pursues a hybrid model, understanding your team members is key to a smooth transition. Support for the ‘whole employee’ may help. Gaining an understanding of all professional and personal issues which may contribute to return-to-office feelings can lead to more helpful support strategies. Employers can use the ‘Resistance to Support Spectrum’ to better understand how to communicate with people and gain positive responses to policies and practices.

To find out more about How to overcome return-to-office resistance read the full article here.

Date published: 14 February 2022

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