Avoiding Office Fireworks by Navigating Return-to-Work Decisions

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By Ranjay Sarda

Regional Director of Business Development

Putting together a prudent and practical return-to-office plan may be the most important decision that companies make this year. Whether companies decide to remain working remotely, implement a return-to-office structure, or incorporate a blend of the two in a hybrid model, executives must be mindful of their employees’ wants and needs before making a choice that is best for their business.

To avoid office fireworks when putting together a future of work decision, organizations need to remember these factors before formulating their workplace plan.

Exploring the Future of the Workplace with HR Leaders

Keep your finger on the pulse

The number one to-do for companies when evaluating whether to bring workers back to the office? Ask their employees. Utilizing pulse surveys and polls can be helpful when determining workers’ preferences and expectations. Is the majority of your workforce seeking continued remote work flexibility? Are there employees who are desperately craving a return to the office? What type of work structure would be best for your workers’ personal and professional needs? The results may surprise you.

Review productivity and profitability numbers

To make a well-informed decision on whether to return to the office, executives should evaluate worker productivity and organizational profitability numbers from the past year. While some studies point to a 13 percent improvement in worker productivity during the pandemic (Stanford), others showed that working parents were distracted 10 percent more than in-office parents and 50 percent more than remote workers without children (Mopria). Companies can also review their quarterly and annual financials to review the pros and cons of returning to the office versus working from home while examining the overall impact on bottom-line profitability.

Evaluate company culture

Has your company been able to maintain its organizational culture throughout the pandemic? This is a major question that is on the minds of many executives. One of the primary arguments for returning to the office is that an in-office environment will foster a greater sense of company culture and togetherness. If some—or all—employees are reunited in a shared space, a more authentic degree of interaction and relationship-building can be promoted. Just as there are perks of working from home, there are proven benefits to returning to an office environment, too.

Consider mask-wearing and vaccine mandates

Safety must be top-of-mind for any executive that is formulating a return-to-office plan. Ensuring that proper protocols and procedures are in place is a great place to start. Beyond the installation of PPE and the establishment of detailed cleaning services, companies may also consider ongoing mask-wearing requirements and vaccine mandates for individuals who are returning to the office. Some organizations have even offered incentives for employees who show proof of their vaccination. Due to the rising prevalence of the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant in recent months, organizations may look to implement more strict policies to protect their employees and prevent potential workplace spread.

Ensure nondiscrimination

If your organization is strongly considering a return-to-office plan or weighing vaccine mandates, be sure to proceed with caution. Despite successful vaccination numbers around the country, some people with underlying medical conditions remain extremely hesitant to return to the office. And certain populations—such as those with specific allergies or pre-existing health conditions or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding—may be advised by medical professionals to refrain from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Be prepared to handle individuals who are unwilling—or simply unable—to follow the protocols that your organization puts in place. Rather than discriminating against these people, try to come to a resolution that is suitable for both parties.


Although the decisions will undoubtedly be difficult to make, how organizations choose to navigate the future of work could have a significant impact on their company culture and overall employer brand. To effectively navigate these uncharted waters, key decision-makers need to be thorough in their research and receptive to their employees’ preferences. By formulating a workplace plan that meets the needs of the business and its workforce, organizations will set themselves up for long-term success after the pandemic has passed.

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