Heading back ‘into the office’? Here are five learnings for women employees on how to make the transition back to work and feel enthused in the new hybrid model.

The year 2020 rocked individuals, organizations, and business models. Everyone scrambled to navigate a rapidly changing environment. For many organizations this included moving to a full-time remote set-up, determining how best to support employees’ wellbeing, and managing a hybrid workforce.

Working women were particularly hard hit. They were pulled in multiple directions with household chores, childcare, and being primary caregivers to elderly people at home, along with having to focus and deliver on the professional front.

As quarantine restrictions ease and vaccination rates increase, companies around the world are bringing people back to the physical workplace. Employees are now looking for stability and expecting life to return to a new normal that blends time in an office with remote work as demanded by each role.

Organizations that offer employees flexibility over when, where and how much they work, see 55 percent of their workforce as high performers as opposed to only 36 percent at organizations with a standard 40-hour workweek.

The five learnings

Continue focusing on overall well-being

Invest in your mental as well as physical health, as both of these directly impact productivity.

Ira Gilani, Director, Goldratt India shares, “The key is to focus on setting a healthy routine as you go back to work. Ensure that you get adequate sleep and make a conscious effort to eat healthy and exercise once you start regular work hours at the office. Though it may sound cliched, having a sound body and mind is essential to bringing your A-game at work.”

Seek employer support too when you need it - working women should not hesitate to talk freely to their superiors on what they need in order to excel at work.

Reduce anxiety by thinking ahead

It’s important to plan childcare and eldercare arrangements in advance for a smoother transition in going back to the office. In the last year or so, since everyone has been at home, this change will take some time to get acclimated to.

Aditi Mathur, Director, American Express opines, “It takes a village to raise a child, so planning the right day-care/support system for days when you are in the office will be critical towards stress-free productivity at work.”

Keep in mind that despite the best planning, there will always be unexpected events - here is where a hybrid model could help you adapt even better.

Exercise flexibility in work arrangements

Maintain a disciplined work schedule but at the same time exercise flexibility. Flexibility will perhaps now shift from location to time. While remote work became a norm, people will also benefit greatly from having more flexibility in when they work.

Gartner’s 2020 Reimagine Employee Survey revealed that “Organizations that offer employees flexibility over when, where and how much they work, see 55% of their workforce as high performers as opposed to only 36% at organizations with a standard 40-hour workweek.”

Ira further adds, “If you are finding it difficult to adjust to the new routine and have some flexibility, exercise the option to work remotely as and when required. Do not hesitate in asking for help from your supervisor, peers or friends”.

Make an extra effort to connect with colleagues

Simple as it may sound, one of the best ways to make the transition smoother is by finding ways to make it better for others. Strike up conversations that create a sense of light-heartedness among your colleagues. Be especially mindful of those colleagues who are still working from home. Show them sensitivity by taking extra steps to make sure they feel connected and included.

Maintaining frequent two-way communication is more important now than ever. Create opportunities for manager-employee one-on-ones and other formal and informal channels to allow employees to express concerns freely. Be open to various communication channels to make it easy for them to ask questions and raise concerns regarding return and safety.

Aditi adds, “It is important to block off time once a month for yourself - to recharge, get pampered, take a break to reflect on what’s working & what isn't, so you don't burn out. When in the office, make sure you schedule in-person connects with your team and key stakeholders preserving the 'human' element of work relationships.“

Absorb lockdown successes into your best practices

COVID-19 lockdowns have forced workplaces and workforces to adapt and evolve. However, this has also brought about many highly productive behaviors and workarounds that can be absorbed into everyday best practices, as employees return to more traditional working environments. For example, many virtual tools were suddenly deployed during the crisis and can be used more routinely even during ‘normal’ business conditions.

A key learning in the lockdown has been that an open/flexible mindset works best as ‘one size cannot fit all’ in a hybrid model. Hence creating an open and judgment-free environment that is equitable and inclusive around flexibility/remote work options with clear and open communication are the key ingredients towards a successful high performing team in a hybrid environment.

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