The following article was edited and originally published on Adweek.
The pandemic has tested the corporate cultures of companies everywhere. During the initial months of the crisis, leaders realized quickly whether their cultures were strong enough to withstand the new work-from-home paradigm and sustain staff during the months that turned into more than a year of isolation.
Leaders had no precedent for how to handle the onset of the pandemic, and we don’t have one to lead us out of it either. What we do know is that if our companies’ strong cultures and core values led us through the pandemic, those attributes will guide us out of it as well.
Leaders have also learned that the return-to-office planning initiated by many companies more than a year ago has evolved into nothing less than a reimagination of the future of work.
In our office, we are addressing how we will adjust to the changes the world has experienced. Here is the approach we are taking to plan for how to come together again while continuing to nurture our culture.
We crafted a vision statement.
We began our planning by establishing a shared vision: Together, our team aspires to create a workplace environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, inclusion, productivity and flexibility to drive business growth. We come back to this statement often to guide planning efforts.
We defined and articulated clear guiding principles.
To focus on the issues most important to our team, we outlined the principles that are guiding our research, planning and process. We’ve shared these guiding principles continuously with employees, so they understand why leadership makes the decisions we do. Our guiding principles include:
We engaged our employees to help design our future.
Throughout the pandemic, we solicited feedback from employees via surveys, group discussions and one-on-one conversations. Most recently we engaged a team-based, cross-discipline model. This group’s input helped us determine that Thursday, September 9, will be the day our workspace officially reopens. We are also implementing a phased approach to help with office re-entry (some people are ready to go back full-time now, while others need more time to prepare). To get our office up and running smoothly, leadership and a number of employee volunteers have been optimizing operations, processes and technology throughout the summer. We want to ensure our physical work environment remains a safe, inspiring and inviting destination for employees and clients alike — a place they all want to be in.
Common themes that emerged and are being used to optimize our plan include:
We continue to share feedback and updates throughout the process.
Throughout our planning process, we’ve kept employees updated on our research, insights, considerations and decision-making. However, no matter how well planned one’s return-to-office or future-of-work approach is, life happens and leaders need to remain open to pivoting and being transparent as changes arise. Trust is paramount, and being open and honest keeps everyone vested in a shared future in which we preserve and nurture our cherished culture.