It may seem like it’s easier to work from home: You can manage your kids, get some chores done, and not change out of your pajamas if you don’t want to. While it may seem like there are tons of benefits to remote work, it’s actually damaging to your career.
There’s now a lot of focus on getting employees back into the office, but many team leaders aren’t quite ready to come back themselves. Remote work, many argue, is inherently feminist, because it allows women to excel in both aspects of their life. But I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
I can see the argument to a certain extent. But, when I dig a little deeper, I realize that it also reinforces stereotypes. Suggesting that it benefits women implies that women are the ones in charge of maintaining a household and caring for children, furthering the belief that a woman’s work is at home. Why shouldn’t she be at the office, interacting with her coworkers?
Remote work fosters, if not promotes, a certain level of hiding and invisibility among leaders. The adage of ‘water cooler conversations’ has not disappeared from company culture, and is so important in creating and nurturing relationships.
I also see the argument that a return to the office doesn’t honor the real-life issues people deal with outside of the workplace. And, in many cases, organizations haven’t asked the right questions to be able to identify the problem areas. Going back into the office forces employees to put work first for a certain time frame, even if their mind is somewhere else or other things need to be tended to and accommodations, like working later, can be made. It’s especially frustrating if only certain employees are required to return to the office and many other departments or desks are empty. Many can wonder why they’ve commuted in.
Both sides of the argument carry valid points. So, if businesses want their employees to return to the office in a way that’s beneficial for everyone involved, there needs to be a certain amount of creative strategy around the plan.
Childcare is an issue? Offer a stipend to support working parents. That’ll only scratch the surface. Consider the value that will come from the investment in time and effort to come back to the office. Create a culture and a model that uses in-office opportunities to mentor, connect, and learn - for employees and people leaders, too. This makes real the value of coming into the office in a way that is positive and helpful for everyone.
As leaders, it’s our duty to understand how people are feeling, and taking the time to have these meaningful conversations can make a huge impact. At the same time, it is our responsibility to advocate for our careers, and create opportunities to learn and grow, while also making time to deepen relationships with colleagues and senior leadership. Moving forward with an intentional, thoughtful plan for you and your team will make the return to the office a good choice for you and your team.
Essentially, it’s important to be able to answer key questions: “Why am I doing this? What’s in it for me?”
In my work as an executive coach and development expert, I bring teams together to diagnose areas of concern and come up with strategies to work effectively in both hybrid and in-office models. I help foster open communication ensuring that resolutions can be created and achieved, building lasting improvements that can be implemented company-wide and making sure that groups work together as one. I improve collaboration and help people identify a clear common understanding of their individual roles and responsibilities to work towards one common goal.
If all of this sounds like something your team or workplace could benefit from, I can help you take action. My guide, How to Diagnose Your Team Challenges, is the first step in creating a return to office plan that works. It can identify the immediate concerns that need resolutions and be the beginning of an effective plan to create meaningful change. Download it here to get started.