Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer and Founder at LIFT
As employees return to the office after the summer break, it is important to make them feel welcomed and comfortable. Think of it the same as kids returning to school. You have several communications before returning to school which talk about your classes, supplies needed, expectations and rules. The thing most kids look forward to is seeing and playing with their friends. The same goes for the office. Before we look at technology, we should consider the experience we want to provide. While this may seem like we are pandering to our employees, the reality is that when your employees feel comfortable, connected and confident, they do their best work.
To achieve success, plan out the month of September as the “return to office”. Build the experience you want for your employees. This starts with a small committee of peers who can articulate what experiences they would want and allow them to build the process for your teams. The process includes an overview of the activities people can experience at the office and the emotions you want them to feel. This includes excitement, competition and nostalgia.
- Games: What games can you use to help people engage and create fun competition with a leader board? Trivia games consisting of work history, people traits and hobbies and funny cultural items from different decades, for example. Create teams across different office locations to increase collaboration locally and connection between offices.
- Lunch: Rather than ordering out, can employees bring their favorite foods to share making it a social potluck
- Mocktail Happy Hour: While alcohol is great, there may be people that can’t or would rather not participate. There are amazing new non-alcoholic mixers and drinks that can be used to give the festive feeling without the buzz.
- Common Area Video Meetups: Put large video units in the common areas in each of your offices and leave them on all day so people can have chance encounters with employees at different offices. The coffee room catch up is one of the things people miss about the office; hard to do when remote and impossible across offices. By adding this option, you can break down the distance walls and find ways for people to connect.
- Guidelines: As “digital citizens” in our offices, we have a commitment to add value through our work and protect our company both physically and digitally. This should be openly talked about with rules that everyone should be informed about and agree to comply with. You may consider electing mayors and/or council people for each office that allows people to have additional leadership responsibility to share culture and enforce the rules. This takes the weight off departments, like IT and Finance, and mainstreams it to all workers. This eliminates the feeling of superiority and focuses on success and compliance. This is the same as student body officers in school. They have limited power but get to make plans and create meaningful experiences for their classmates.
The goal is to engage people, make them feel included and provide them with a way to have a voice. Technology helps to scale this by providing flexibility, security and inclusivity. IT organizations should focus on the value you are providing and how you are enabling the success of the people and the company as a whole.