Returning to the office looks a lot more flexible than it used to

Written by Eric Hanson of

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Corporate real estate is not a thing of the past, but the overall landscape will look and operate in vastly different ways.

New variants will routinely bring concerns for COVID surges, and so we’ll see many adopt a “hybrid model” in this next phase of flexible work, which enables employees to work remotely, or in-person, based on their individual needs and preferences. In order to retain key talent moving forward, organizations will need to carefully plan these strategies.


Empower functional leaders

Executives must empower their leaders to speak up regarding what guidelines around flexibility and communication make the most sense for their coworkers. Establishing this balance bidirectionally from the c-suite to functional leaders will provide a solid starting point for teams as they continue to navigate a hybrid work schedule.

Set clear goals 

Many confuse goals with strategy.

Freek Vermeulen, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, explains the difference:

“A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what the firm is going to do and what it’s not going to do. Many so-called strategies are in fact goals…and strategy execution processes fail because the firm does not have something worth executing.”

As business leaders plan their return to office strategies, they must ensure their goals align to a clear set of choices and direction to set their organization up for success.


Embrace agility

In order to ensure business continuity and success during times of uncertainty, leaders must embrace a flexible mindset. The pandemic has taught us that the next large-scale, unexpected business disruption could be just around the corner and how leaders prepare for this is critical. It’s never been more important for organizations to build a strong, agile foundation that can thrive in the face of whatever comes its way.

Balance accommodation with accountability

Executives must work to trust employees to set their own schedules so they can continue to be their best at home and in the office. At the same time, this must be balanced with accountability.

As leaders implement hybrid work policies, they must lead by example. But while it begins with the leader, if coworkers also don’t demonstrate accountability within these guidelines, this circle of trust is broken and productivity drops.

Plan for an automated future

Innovative technologies such as natural language processing, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and 5G will also drive more productivity in the workforce by automating more menial tasks. Organizations must also prioritize the tech systems that are a best fit for their people, while also preparing employees for this technology and the resulting new work models.

Business leaders will need to make their own choices as to what is best for their people while keeping the above considerations in mind.