3rd August 2021

Going Back; Is It Worth It?

Have you ever been told, “because I told you so?” How did you respond?

When my Mom said these words to me during my teenage years, I always responded with anger, frustration, and a strong desire to do the opposite of what she told me to do. This phrase successfully ended the conversation. It also destroyed any engagement or buy-in from me.

As your office re-opens, asking your team to return can feel like yet another challenge to overcome. After an entire year of constant change, reimagining work structures, worrying about team member wellbeing, engagement, and productivity, it can be tempting to tell your team, “because I told you so.”

I get it. 

We all know that stating “job requirements” as the primary reason employees must return to the office will not work. Many of your team members never worked from home before, and they had to quickly figure it out, and they made it work.

But what if you look at going back to the office differently? 

What if this is an opportunity to clarify and define “why” your team comes to this workplace? What is it about your office that enhances the employee experience? How can you use your office re-opening as an opportunity to re-engage your team and re-energize your culture? 

To provide your employees with a compelling reason to return to the office, focus on two of the most significant benefits and advantages of on-site in-person work – connection and collaboration.


How many virtual happy hours, masked backyard gatherings, and Zoom calls have you attended during the pandemic? Human beings are social animals with a fundamental need for connection. Social needs are treated the same way in the brain as the need for food and water. This is why positive relationships and interactions are considered primal needs. We need each other for encouragement, development, and support. According to Gallup, Americans report the highest levels of happiness when they spend six to seven hours per day socializing.

Zoom kept us connected while we worked remotely, however, the shine soon wore off and was replaced by feelings of fatigue and social disconnection, even isolation. Staring at a face on a flat screen is not the same as sitting next to a colleague in a meeting or chatting in the hallway.

In-person, on-site work offers your team multiple formal and informal opportunities for interpersonal interaction and socialization. However, the challenge with hybrid work is that it requires you to be intentional in helping your team maximize relational return when they are in the office.

  • Create an environment that encourages connection. Plan social events at the office so your team can engage with each other. One of our clients, an investment management firm, has instituted a Friday office breakfast gathering. Breakfast is brought into the office, and everyone gathers in the breakroom to enjoy coffee, bagels, and catching up with each other.
  • Schedule a meeting with your team to discuss hybrid schedules. Select a day or two when most schedules overlap and encourage the team to prioritize on-site work that day.
  • Reevaluate your team meetings. How can these provide opportunities for your team to connect, share, discuss work and topics unrelated to work and the office? Consider allocating time at each meeting for personal interaction or have meetings dedicated only to social or project related interactions.
  • Ask your team how they want to connect and support each other’s social, emotional, and wellbeing needs. What does this look like in-person and virtually? 


Most of us do not work alone nor in silos. Collaboration is the foundation of how we work. It allows us to capitalize on the strengths of others and results in enhanced productivity, innovation, and performance.

Collaboration continued when the world shifted to remote work with the assistance of technology. However, the challenges of virtual-only collaboration quickly emerged. According to the Asana Anatomy of Work 2021 survey, 60% of employees’ time was spent on work coordination or work-about-work. These are the activities that take away from meaningful work and include communicating about tasks, searching for information, switching between applications, managing shifting priorities, and following up on the status of projects.

Remote work and virtual-only collaboration make the coordination of highly interdependent or complex tasks more difficult. 

According to Gallup, working together effectively not only increases productivity, it also fosters and sustains trust. When you are at a conference room table working together, there is visibility around each person’s contributions, strengths, skills, capabilities, and performance that can sustain the team’s confidence in each other, even when they are not together.

Gather your team and evaluate your current collaboration platforms and support systems.

  • What collaboration limitations were exposed during remote work?
  • What, if any, project management or communication tools provided the most engaging experience?
  • What, if any, project management or communication tools facilitated authentic collaborative interactions among the team?  
  • What can the team do to capitalize and maximize the benefits of in-person collaboration?
  • What can the team do to optimize virtual collaboration?
  • What modifications and enhancements need to be made to the current collaboration platforms and systems to optimize productivity, performance, and inclusion in a hybrid workplace?

Focus on the intentional inclusion of remote team members during meetings. 

  • Involve them in discussions, brainstorming, and decision making. 
  • Proactively ask for their input when they join via phone or video-conferencing technology. 
  • Ensure that all meeting materials and documentation have been sent out prior to the meeting and are accessible and visible to everyone in the meeting.

Analyze your projects and tasks to determine the optimal type of collaboration.

  • Which tasks require and/or would benefit from team collaboration and interdependent work? 
  • Prioritize scheduling these tasks when most of the team members are in the office.
  • Which tasks can be completed independently with minimal coordination?

As your office re-opens, engage in open, authentic conversations with each team member on the benefits of returning to on-site in-person work. Acknowledge the challenges and hardships of the last year and focus on the real, tangible benefits of working in the office. Ask your team members what they gained and lost while working remotely and remind them why they enjoyed being in the office before the pandemic.  

Your team members are disruption and change weary. They can easily make logical arguments to continue working from home. And many of them are not ready to ditch their short commutes and yoga pants. 

If you want your team members to return to your office, it must be worth it – so download our free Office Re-Opening Transition Success Guide so everyone can thrive.