News Article

Before the Office, the Meeting Room

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Wed, 10/13/2021 - 15:59

The COVID-19 pandemic may have turned the former work model on its head but that does not mean that returning to the office needs to be a dreadful experience. To ensure the smooth transition to the office, employers must have a frank dialogue with employees to avoid resignations, maintain a high morale and increase productivity.

Companies have had the technology to work from home for over a decade now but employers widely resisted the hybrid work model thinking it would compromise productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that this model is not only possible; it is more efficient and “the best of both worlds,” said Javier García Iza, CEO of IOS Offices.

This model underlines that returning to the office does not need to be a binary choice. Just as there are perceived drawbacks to working in an office there are also great benefits such as greater concentration, a more cohesive work culture and a faster exchange of ideas needed to drive innovation. Likewise, working from home can be distracting, lead to longer work hours and introduce some inefficiencies. The key component is the individual employee. As demonstrated repeatedly from multiple surveys, some individuals thrive better in office spaces, some at home and the majority have been looking for a combination of the two.

To retain their employees for this new post-pandemic phase, companies need to address the driving concern of the Great Resignation: a perceived loss of personal freedom, said Olivia Segura Ortiz, Director People & Change and HR & Talent Management Consulting of KPMG. The pandemic allowed people to refocus their priorities and have time for themselves, which had previously been an afterthought stamped out by the daily routine. Lockdowns helped employees avoid hour-long commutes, gave them more time with their families and allowed them to build their work schedules around their needs.

In practice, bringing employees back requires companies to sit down with their workforce to address the concerns they have about returning to the workplace. Once both parties come to an agreement, employers must clearly outline standards and expectations for their employees to avoid misunderstandings, said Javier Jaramillo, HRBP & HRSS and Compliance Manager of Lamudi. Beyond this, companies need to develop a framework to implement the changes or requests made on behalf of the employees, added Segura.

Addressing employee concerns is central to developing a healthy company culture in which employees feel valued, which in turn adds to productivity and retainment, said Isela Hernández, Vice President of Human Resources of Walmart México. Moreover, companies should be weary of implementing generalized solutions, what makes one employee exceptionally productive and efficient will not be the same for everyone else. Consequently, employers should anticipate variations of their work model within their office space which will require added communication on behalf of employers. Ideally this cycle should be cyclical and flexible to environmental changes, situational needs and performance.

This change in no way should be perceived as an added expenditure because companies stand to benefit from a more productive, healthier and more engaged workforce. Furthermore, companies can depersonalize and downsize office spaces and reduce the high running costs of underutilized spaces and electricity. 

The former work model may be dead but that does not mean that returning to office needs to be a singular binary choice. Sustained intercommunication between employers and employees should be central to the development of hybrid work models.

Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst