Office returns: How to lead with empathy and compassion

HRD reveals how to help people thrive in the return to workplaces

Office returns: How to lead with empathy and compassion

Returning to physical workplaces seems to be the ongoing trend this year, with the pandemic waning and more restrictions easing across the world. However, not a lot of employees who have grown accustomed to working from home are very enthusiastic about the idea of getting back to their physical offices.

Mark Lang, head of Colliers' Return to the office task force, spoke with HRD regarding this, where he shared how HR should carry out their reopening plans.

"We're emphasising with all of our people not just to respect everybody's different points of view but also support one another," he told HRD in an interview. "It's been a difficult two years for everybody, so as we come back and reintegrate, it's vital for us to lead with empathy."

According to Lang, it is also essential to establish communication with employees and respond to their queries regarding the return-to-work plans and the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

"We're really working with communication and making sure we're keeping people well-informed, anticipating as best we can and answering all their questions, and keeping the dialog going with the people as well," Lang said.

"I think communication is really key, if there's a lot of questions, a lot of change and to manage that effectively, I think over communication."

Going flexible

Colliers, a real estate firm, has been reopened to employees since July 2020, but Lang said they are expecting everyone to be back to the workplace in a hybrid scheme by May 2.

"We're sort of bringing the whole band back together and just reintegrating back to the office, but it's going to be very different because many people will be on a more hybrid arrangement," said Lang, who is also Colliers' VP, People Services l Canada & Global Shared Services.

According to Lang, their company's hybrid strategy will be different for groups and teams and will let employees get the "best with both worlds." This means a mix between being with colleagues, which the executive said they have missed, and having the flexibility they enjoyed the past two years.

Read more: Returning to work: How to ease employee anxiety

He said their employees' attitudes about returning to workplaces are on a "whole spectrum" where some are very excited about it, with some feeling a little more reluctant about returning. According to Lang, several factors are likely behind this hesitation.

"Obviously, the pandemic and probably just how safe they feel in return, I also think many people are accustomed to working remotely."

Addressing hesitation

To address this reluctance among staff, especially with a lot of restrictions easing, Lang said it is important that provincial public health safety regulations are being observed.

Colliers has a vaccination policy for all employees and visitors that Lang said will remain in place until further notice, and all offices are mask friendly. "We will continue to follow provincial and public health guidelines and adjust as needed."

"I think it's going to continue to change in the coming months, and we are just going to have to continue to stay nimble and work with our people to ensure that they thrive in their environment once they return to work."

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