To Return or Not to Return?



Now that COVID-19 concerns are starting to fade and more people are getting vaccinated, many employers are anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy. But they are struggling to get workers to return to the office with a chorus of employees saying, “Why do I have to?”, “I mean really, why should I?” and “If we can get the same job done remotely, why can’t we just continue to work from home all of the time?”

I will “sheepishly” admit that the thought crossed my mind, too. I have been a remote worker for over 10 years; however, we have had the requirement of coming into the office, if not on a weekly basis then quarterly or ad hoc and for monthly meetings or team-building events. I thought that maybe after the long period of remote work for the whole organization, the periodic requirement would be dropped or forgotten? What was I thinking?!

SHRM is the amazing organization it is due to collaboration of so many amazingly talented people. Our ability to be innovative and collaborate is not as successful via Zoom meetings or conference calls. What is integral to our success is time when we can really connect and spontaneously discuss new ideas. Our organization’s success has always been closely tied to the collaborative efforts and that is why we are returning to the office.

On my first visit back to our headquarters, I had forgotten how refreshing it was to be around my peers and colleagues, and not to just to say hello in person, but to once again be around others. (That’s saying a lot for this introvert!) It was inspiring to once again be around others who share the same commitment to SHRM’s mission, hear their approaches to answering our members’ questions, catch up and share information on the latest news and workplace trends, and get better acquainted with new colleagues. I didn’t realize how much I missed the in-person connection.

My experience may be different from others; however, as your employers make decisions about the return to the workplace, I would encourage all to consider what can be done remotely versus what more may be possible with a more solid connection with our colleagues and peers.

Although not required, I have actually made the decision to come into the office more often than scheduled in order to strengthen those connections and to become even more involved in SHRM’s initiatives and its mission of creating Better Workplaces and a Better World. What I am finding is that a hybrid approach to returning to work is the best of both worlds. The bottom line: There is no one-size fits all. Employers will need to take a deeper look at their organization’s culture, employee engagement and job satisfaction to find the right model that balances the business needs with their workers for determining a return-to-work strategy that works best for the organization and yields the best results over time.

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