Back-to-work menu: 5 strategies for finding the perfect balance

April 15, 2021

What is the perfect balance people often ask me when I talk about my life? There is actually none. In my opinion it is all about to make a decent choice regarding how to spend your time and divide it between your private life, work and other endeavours. It is obvious that things have changed the recent year or so, and that most importantly, even though we deny, our daily habits have changed quite rigorously. Habits regarding how we buy, how we communicate and how we take care of ourselves.

Prior to the Corona pandemic we were all facing an engagement crisis, several research institutes amongst other Gallup were reporting a staggering low engagement level amongst employees, worldwide, levels of 85% unhappiness.

Imagine, out of the 10 employees, over 8 employees were not happy in their work. Because of multiple reasons, bad manager support, weak onboarding, moderate performance reviews and most importantly unaligned expectations on their role. Floating colleagues. Call it a bobber on a fishing stick, waiting for the fish to bite…

The pandemic has brought a lot of misery to many people in the world, fellow entrepreneurs failing to keep their head afloat, depressive students working on their study in solitude, stress in families and a lot of beautiful people we have lost.

On the other side the calling of the crisis has also been very positive if you ask me, we have been able to collaborate with our colleagues remotely and have been able to adapt quite quickly. Even more, employees are reporting a better work life balance, more ‘me time’ and less commuting. However, the long term effects can be more challenging as creativity has been under pressure because of the lack of physical interaction in the workplace. More distant connection between co-workers and management not to forget the remote collaboration with our customers. The anxiety and economic uncertainty can put relationships under pressure and that’s why it is important to formulate a strategy. A strategy that provides clarity to your most important assets: your employees.

Whilst on the edge of the spring several countries are opening up step-by-step. This allows us to also to not only think about but also implement strategies to go back-to-work. The following 5 strategies will help you define a personal and impactful journey for your employees.

1. Onboarding is always a good idea

Having been in employee onboarding for over 10 years setting up and growing a market leader, I have seen the benefits for employee engagement clearly coming up when employers take care of  “critical transition moments”. Providing your employees clarification and meaning about what’s next keeps everybody aligned. A decent guidance from A to B to talk about what is expected from them and what you are doing as an employer to create a trustworthy environment that is connected to your culture. Especially when uncertainty is still around. A digital enabler is a necessary element to complement your onboarding strategy: visualise your approach and streamline your communication around it.

2. Menu-based availability

The standard work week is long gone. Many employers will increasingly ask their employees to come over to the office, some of them will even reinstate the work week as we know it from before the pandemic.

But what to think about the ‘new colleagues’ of your co-workers, like the kids and partners being around for over a year. Turning this routine around too quickly can scare off your employees to look out for another employer and to potentially jump ship.

Providing a menu to your employees offers your colleagues a better way to select which day(s) they will be around in the office in such a way that they can really have impact together and foster creativity and innovation. Several companies are installing a ‘team’ based approach by looking at the needs of their employees.

3. Resilience of the employees

Just like onboarding, mental well-being is not a buzzword, it is a must have and part of your culture to think about what’s going on between the ears of your employees and how to help them become more resilient. What are you offering to your employees? Think once again about a menu you are offering to your employees and let them know which activities they can undertake whilst they are working in the office, working from home once they are off. Investing in employee wellbeing programs like yoga and meditation will offer your colleagues a perfect way to remain balanced and build resiliency.

4. Office as the new clubhouse

The role of the office has changed and even your culture has changed drastically. Even though you think it has not. Think about the office as a new clubhouse, where people will gather to do next-level stuff: talking about innovation, personal development and customer growth and loyalty for instance. Implementing a theme based calendar, will also create curiosity and awareness amongst employees, to visit the office not just for face-time feeling guilty about working from home. Even better, let your employees determine what they want to experience.

5. Storytelling

An integral part of your strategy is by all means the storytelling. Make sure that you are capturing the stories of your employees who have been to the office, who are working from home. Sharing these personal stories, will become a springboard for your onboarding and mental health programs. Sharing best practices on “what I am doing to remain balanced?”, or “how do I create a perfect work environment at home?” will get inspiration around in your teams. Inspiration that will have a lasting impact on potential new talent, your alumni and also your customers.

The bottom line: the menu

Sitting down and just waiting to see what’s going to happen is never a good idea. Things will flourish when you pay attention to it and employees will feel it and even live it.

The menu concept allows your employees to pick the ‘dishes’ that they like and most importantly that do fit in their daily routine. In the end everybody wants the same thing and that is just to be happy. 😊