Don't Be a T.W.a.T

“How do we encourage our teams back to the office?” I’ve been asked this on more than one occasion by my clients. To me, the word “encourage” is the right word to use. We can’t just “tell” your people to come back to the office. March 2020 we had no choice but to “tell” our people to work from home (where they could) because these were the new rules/guidelines, but what are the rules/guidelines now?

The human race was not created to be a solitary race. Okay, I get it some people like to be alone more than others, but not forever. What are the feelings that you get when you hear “back to the office”?

Most people I have spoken too have welcomed it, but they want a choice. They want flexibility and they want fairness, which involves a choice of when and how they come back. I get that and we can’t please all of the people all of the time. So how do we make this work for everyone?

We want to offer flexibility, we want our teams to come back and feel safe, we want to encourage collaboration, the conversations around the water cooler/coffee machine and these are also the “things” that our teams want to. YES, even the introverts want the collaboration, introverts are no solitary people, this is a myth along with the description they are “shy”.

SO what is stopping them? Here are a few things:

First is our body clock.

Let’s look at how we have spent our commute time in the last 18 months because the commute to the office itself can be tiring. Whether this is driving or on public transport, the whole journey can take its toll on our energy levels. Think about when you first started a new job with a commute – excitement at the start but tiring towards the end. So having had 18 months of no commuting, we need to get our teams back at the right pace for all. I hear parents talking about how amazing it has been to take their children to school, to be a lot more “involved” in their lives in the week. Others have talked about fitness regimes, new hobbies, learning new skills. Do we really want to take this away from our teams ?? Because when we are happy in life, we give so much more. (remember last months link to Dan Pink’s piece on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose?) Now I’m not saying “no” to the commute but to raise awareness to think of how others have used this time.

Let’s also look at the commute itself, particularly on public transport. People are telling me and I am reading lots of interesting Polls (especially on LinkedIn) about how or teams are happy to come back to the office and not worried about the safety measures put in place in the office or being with their colleagues but it is the safety of the commute itself and mixing with so many others people. Now that mask-wearing is down to the individual (I know the London Mayor has still enforced wearing on London transport). Have you taken this part of the commute into consideration – the anxiety levels that so many of your team may be facing. Remember we are all different.

And let’s not forget that family time. For so many parents, having that time in the morning to be with their children has been a blessing, to be far more involved in their loves at a young age, and to be home before they are in bed. We want our teams to be happy so how can this be a win-win. I’m not a parent myself but I can fully see from their perspective.

Let’s also look at the days of the week, and the headline for this article. It came about as I have heard, on more than one occasion and by Company Directors saying “it’s okay, we’ll get rid of the T.W.a.T’s” or “we don’t want the T.W.a.T’s making the rules”

The term T.W.a.T is for all those who say they are coming back Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only, staying at home Monday and Friday. I can understand from the team member why this would be seen as a fair deal, but from the organisations perceptive what message does it give?

Monday – not coming in may give the impression you had a heavy weekend?
Friday – not coming in may give the impression you want to go early as have weekend plans?

Now any fair organisation would have no issue if you said “I’m working from home this Friday as I’m away this weekend” Save the time of commuting home, packed and ready to go when you have finished.

But to take this stand every week really does not give the balanced messaged to both sides.

How can we get a balance for all? We need to ask ourselves and our colleagues teams:

What tasks need to be completed this week?
Who is involved in these tasks?
Do they need to physically be together to complete?
Where is the “ideas” time for this task?
What else is happening in the business?
What messages are we delivering this week as a business?

This is just my opinion but being back in the office creates energy, a feeling of belonging, teamwork, community, create ideas, makes things happen. Working from home gives the balance to live, to reduce the commuting, mental wellbeing and give valued family time.

To answer it is about a balance and how we can all agree together what works best for both the organisation AND the individual.

Don’t TELL your teams and don’t TELL your organisation what days you are in the office, negotiate, community and above all be flexible.

We are all different and will have different wants and needs for the office space, the office is NOT dead but how we used to use has gone and I don’t have a glass ball, I just strive for fairness for all.

P.S Remember, no one wants to be labelled a T.W.a.T

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