The top 5 concerns managers have as they prepare to return to the office

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Having worked closely with over 300 Australian managers from both the public and private sectors over the past 18 months, leadership coach Nathan Verco has put together a list of their most burning questions and concerns as they prepare for what could be quite a challenging return to the office … the long-awaited re-entry into the workplace after several months managing remotely.

The boundaries have shifted during the pandemic and there are a lot of difficult chats I now need to have that I’ve been avoiding.

Some team members might not actually want to be back in the office full-time.

Others might be campaigning for a mix. A fast strategy to get the ball moving when you get back into the office is to embrace the below conversation starters which act as a cognitive kickstart to slip into having that chat you might be avoiding.

“I’ve been noticing recently …”

“I’d love you to walk me through …”

“Help me understand …”

Rip off the band aid and regain control.

How can I engage my team when right now I don’t even know what everyone looks like?

Call out the elephant in the room, level with people.

If team members have habitually had their cameras off or haven’t been responsive on video calls while working remotely, level with them and call people up on it gently through humour.

Maybe something like, “I’ve got to say, I was starting to feel all alone, … like I’ve been talking to myself for the last few months. I’m looking forward to seeing all your faces, and moving forward if you’re working remotely, it’s important that I can see your faces, too, just so I know you’re not on a cruise ship holiday!”

Every day in lockdown a voice inside my head asked, ‘What now?!’ My brain is done.

Decision fatigue is a thing.

Our cognitive function is quite a limited, finite, sensitive resource. We give our brains way too much credit. Research shows that the best way to recharge the brain’s capacity during the day is not rest, but to take a moment to do something different – alternating stimulus. When you’re back in the office, look out the window, turn on some tunes, or make yourself a cuppa in a mug that says. “Another meeting that should have been an email!

One small step at a time. You need to re-calibrate.

I feel like I don’t really know where I stand with the team anymore. How do I rebuild culture?

An employee never leaves a company. They leave their manager, even though the proclamation is usually that ‘the culture wasn’t right’.

Culture is a cluster of facets largely built around the capacity of a manager to connect with people and coach and facilitate their thinking. But workplace culture has been ripped apart by the lockdown.

The extent to which you can connect with people determines the extent to which you can influence them. Connection equals influence. It’s not rocket science, it’s brain-science.

It really all comes down to mastering the art of checking in with your staff, whether in the office or remote, which is very different from checking up on them.

How do I show the team I care about their return to the office when I don’t have time?

Spending time with people often gives them the connection they need. But what is this connection?

Often more than anything, the need that is being met is just being heard.

People need to feel understood, to not feel alone, and to ensure they feel like they’re still part of the tribe.

Acknowledgement might only take 30 seconds. Something like, “I appreciate coming back into the office has been a bit bumpy …”, or “I’m very aware that over the last few months you’ve had to pivot so many times …”.

Many employees could feel anxious about returning to the office. Managers will need to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity of it all while also getting BAU activities back on track as quickly as possible. Managers shouldn’t put more pressure on their returning staff but at the same time need to ensure that they themselves are not feeling overloaded or overwhelmed upon re-entry.

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Nathan Verco is a dynamic leadership coach with hellomonday who transforms and brings to life cutting-edge information around peak personal and professional performance in a way that remains with you long after you leave. He is dedicated to exploring the dance between psychology and physiology and how we can implement this to increase performance at work.

hellomonday helps people reach their full potential in a job they love through easy-to-use technology that provides curated ‘on-demand’ learning, with coaching conversations at the core. Development is tailored to individual needs and aligned to your business strategy.

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