Your Return-to-Office Strategy Is an Opportunity to Build Trust With Employees

Enjoy this article that was recently published in Ignite!, the newsletter of The Ken Blanchard Companies. I was interviewed about the opportunity to build trust as organizations develop plans to return workers to the office.


Organizations have an opportunity to intentionally increase trust with their people by the open and collaborative way they handle plans for people returning to the office, says trust expert Randy Conley.

“As a leader, you have a choice on where to invest your energy. You can do it through micromanaging and strictly enforcing everyone’s work schedules—or you can spend your time empowering your people, investing in them, trusting them, and helping them achieve their goals, regardless of whether they’re sitting in a nearby office or joining a Zoom call from home.

“A large percentage of people have enjoyed the freedom and work-life balance that working from home has provided. They are concerned about losing some of these positive changes as companies begin to roll out their plans for returning to the office.”

Sending people home at the start of the pandemic was a great trust experiment, says Conley.

“Organizations were forced to extend trust to their people. There was no more physical monitoring. The norm of everyone showing up at the office at 9:00 a.m. was broken.

“The good news is, by all accounts we’ve seen, the ‘experiment’ was a great success! Leaders and their teams found new ways to work and were amazed by not only the increase in productivity but also the satisfaction with their life and work situation.”

So what do organizations do now? Continue to build in that direction—or collectively exhale that it went well, bring everyone back to the office, and return to the old ways?

“I think that train has left the station,” says Conley. “Employees have had a taste of a new way of working and they want certain aspects of it to continue. They’re not willing to go back to the old life. If their organization doesn’t want to make a change, many will look for something else or stay only until a better opportunity comes along.”

This has employers worried about losing their best talent as well as finding new talent in the future, says Conley.

“It’s a very practical concern. I think a lot of old-school mentality leaders still believe the office is where people need to be to do their work.

“It’s dangerous to generalize around this topic. Leaders have a lot of sticky issues to work through. It’s important to take some time to think things through, be open, share information, and make decisions based on data—not on old-school mindsets or ideas.

“If you have data points that support onsite collaboration and productivity, make sure your team understands that. Conversely, if your data supports remote work, share that. Have an open dialogue about it. Involve people in the change and the decision-making process.”

The key to creating this atmosphere of open dialogue is building a culture with high trust. That begins with connectedness, says Conley.

“Go slow. Tread lightly. Unless you have a rock-solid reason for bringing back people immediately without their feedback, take it slowly and involve them in the process. Let them know you’re hearing their concerns.”

Another leader behavior that builds trust is having clear expectations, says Conley.

“Be explicit about what the hybrid work model will look like for your team. How many days per week are people expected to be in the office? Are some days mandatory? The more you can spell out the details, the more confident people will be about complying with team norms.

“During times like these, it’s important to build on the trust we extend to each other in how we get our work done. By setting clear expectations, involving everyone in the process, soliciting feedback, and staying flexible as leaders, we can better enjoy the progress we’ve made and will continue to make as we move into the future.”


Would you like to learn more about building trust in your organization? Join us for a free webinar!

Accelerating Trust During Times of Change

Wednesday, July 21, 2021, 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Trust is critical anytime an organization is embarking on great change. To ensure high levels of organizational performance, leaders must tackle trust head-on by demonstrating the behaviors people most associate with trust.

People need to know they can trust their leaders in four key areas. In this webinar, Blanchard trust practice leader Randy Conley will show you how to improve the levels of trust in your organization by identifying potential gaps that trip up even the best leaders. Participants will learn how to:

  • Recognize the warning signs when people lack trust in your leadership.
  • Purposefully engage in four trust-building behaviors.
  • Create strong, long lasting, trust-based relationships.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to raise the level of trust in your organization by increasing the “trust-ability” of your leaders.

Register today!

5 Comments on “Your Return-to-Office Strategy Is an Opportunity to Build Trust With Employees

  1. I think everyone should read your advice and not just in a transitional time. Your sentiment of, “The key to creating this atmosphere of open dialogue is building a culture with high trust. That begins with connectedness” truly hits home. With freedom comes responsibility, and the Coronavirus provided newfound freedom and the challenge of balancing that with meeting performance metrics. Some may find returning to the office as refreshing and helpful, while others may be in a state of upheaval once more. Through empowerment, communication, and clarity, the door will be open to express concerns and present data that will cement a connected relationship between leadership and constituents moving forward.

    Thank you,
    Respectfully,
    Fallon

  2. Hi Randy, Trust is a key component of the hybrid work environment, and I appreciate that you bring in outlining clear expectations for employees for that hybrid work environment. For our team, we utilize a standard morning and afternoon standup to check in with each other. Team members are welcome to call in from the office or while remote, but this allows team members the flexibility while maintaining a regular contact point.

  3. This is great advice and I hope many employers read it. I think the next step after accepting that remote work is here to stay, is to create strategies for building and maintaining culture appropriate for this new work model. A lot of us were just winging it for the past year and a half thinking that all of this is just temporary. But now that we know that this is the present and future of the way we work, we need to become more intentional in adapting our organizational cultures.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: