By Dale Isip

Returning to the office after a prolonged period of remote work may be a difficult transition for employers and employees alike. Recent polling suggests that 55 percent of employees would like to work remotely at least three days a week post-pandemic – while in contrast, 98 percent of employers expected most of their workers to be back in the office as of the start of this year.

This may be a daunting contrast, but it is also one that can be bridged. Here are a few ways that managers and employees alike can improve in-office work, possibly to perform even greater than before.

A Slow Adjustment to an In-Office Return

Because of the nature of remote work, you might not recognize the subtleties of in-person interaction upon returning to the office. While remote work does allow for greater flexibility timewise, there is no allowance to exercise one’s abilities in respecting personal space, being courteous, and having a healthy regard for quality social interactions.

For this reason, it may be necessary to reacclimate yourself slowly to in-office work. You might want to interact with your co-workers one at a time at first, and then gradually, in small groups. This can be a chance to practice having light, easygoing, in-person conversations once again.

New Ways to Connect 

If you are a manager, you might want to touch base with your employees in the first few days or weeks back at the office. If done on an individual level, you can get a sense of how your employees worked remotely. If they were most productive at certain hours, for example, or had conditions that allowed them to work better, you might find ways to incorporate these in the office.

You can also have a walking meeting with your team members and show them if (and how) the office has changed in regards to social distancing concerns. In groups of two or three, you can carefully field any questions they have.

If you are an employee, ask if any members of your team are on a hybrid schedule – and adjust accordingly. Similarly, if you are a manager, you can determine when members of your team work best together on these schedules.

Time to Collaborate

Whether you are a manager or an employee, returning to the office with a solid respect for others’ space in the office can benefit your team overall. Coming back from working remotely is a substantial change – but also could be an opportunity to establish a work dynamic that truly considers individual workers.

This makes the time spent working collaboratively that much more valuable. Problem solving, pair programming, and teamwork efforts may improve if you know conditions on an individual level are optimized for work.

The return to in-office work offers an opportunity to rebuild professional relationships with an entirely different dynamic. Returning gradually, idealizing work conditions, and finding better ways to work collaboratively, however, could make this new in-office dynamic more productive than ever before.