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The work world is stuck in limbo. Many employees are still clinging to remote work as more than a pandemic solution. Bosses, on the other hand, want them back in the office, where face-to-face interactions are easier.

Every company is handling the situation a little bit differently. In some cases, hybrid work is the solution. In others, remote work is allowed only for certain workers. Still, other companies are insisting on the return of in-the-flesh meetings and workplaces.

For those leaders seeking to rebuild the pre-pandemic office, it’s important to maintain communication and team collaboration as you encourage a migration back to a full-time or even part-time in-person work experience. Here are a few tips to help streamline that process heading into 2024.

Embrace Thoughtful Digital Transformation

McChrystal Group emphasizes the importance of digital transformation for any company, regardless of their physical or virtual workplace preferences. “Teams are increasingly identifying opportunities in their day-to-day operations for digital tools and technology to become more productive, adaptable, and agile,” explains Peggy Timmer, a Principal on McChrystal Group’s implementation team.

Understanding how your team collaborates can be a powerful insight to leverage no matter where your team performs work. Those same digital tools can allow leaders to see who spends time working together, whether it be in meetings, chat, or within a work project.

She elaborates that this transformation must be methodical and intentional, explaining that most teams and their leaders want digital solutions “to be designed, developed, and implemented yesterday.”

While this gives the appearance of progress, it lays the groundwork for numerous shortcomings. Proper digital transformation should consider real needs, find genuine solutions, and then implement them properly. That last step includes professional instruction so that employees can take full advantage of each tool. This doesn’t just make a workplace more productive. Fostering educated workers who can confidently utilize digital tools impacts a brand’s overall workplace culture and environment.

True team collaboration doesn’t just come from implementing the right tools. It also requires leadership to take the time to invest in and cultivate a workforce that can utilize them, no matter where they’re working. Make sure you’re still adopting healthy and thoughtful digital transformation, even as you come back together to work in the same office again.

Encourage Interactions From In-Person Teams

Even if you’ve been working together for years, it’s important to remember that your employees won’t all make the transition back to the office flawlessly. On the contrary, it’s challenging to spend significant time apart and then suddenly come together and be a cohesive, functioning in-person team again.

This is even true in personal relationships, such as interacting with friends and family. It’s hard to see someone after months or even years of digital, often asynchronous communication and pick right up where you left off the last time you were together. Whether it’s at work or in personal life, most people require time to warm up, reconnect, and re-establish the trust and comfort that they previously had.

Leaders can facilitate this in multiple ways for their re-connecting teams. Here are a few ideas to grease the collaborative wheels again:

  • Encourage breaks: Breaks during remote work typically mean a team splits up with everyone going their separate ways. With an office setting, it gives them a chance to interact and decompress while off the clock.
  • Have some fun: It’s also a good idea to incorporate some team bonding activities. No need for silly icebreakers if your team already knows one another. Instead, look for deeper conversation starters to help everyone open up again.
  • Seek feedback: Ask your team what they think you can do to help improve collaborative efforts. What do they need, and how can you help them acclimate to an office setting again?

If you want your team to collaborate effectively, you need to pave the way by investing in interactions again.

Keep Online Communication at the Center of Your Strategy

Just because you’re returning to the office doesn’t mean you need to adopt an anti-technology approach to work. On the contrary, as we already touched on in the first point, thoughtful digital transformation should still be at the center of your strategy.

Along with purposefully transitioning to new technologies, try to keep as much of your activity online as possible, even if you’re operating in the same physical space. This helps your team stay on the same page, regardless of what your remote and hybrid work policies look like in the past, present, and future.

There’s no guarantee that the future will not require similar shut-downs and quarantine-like orders. Staying online makes it easy to shift between in-person and remote work.

In addition, even if your office is sharing one space again, the workflow platform Trello points out that if you have branches in other locations, an online space brings everyone together. Having virtual collaborative spaces makes workflow easier if you’re working with third-party partners, contractors, and vendors, too.

Already having smooth, functioning communication and online collaborative spaces can keep your company running smoothly at all times. You can use these digital havens to house things like information, formal exchanges, and documentation. By generally keeping everything in one cloud-based space, you can ensure that your team continues to function seamlessly in a digital world.

Improving Collaboration During the Return to In-Person Work

If your company is returning to an in-person workplace, it’s important to invest in keeping key activities alive and well throughout the transition. If you allow the shift to hamper communication and team collaboration, you can waste precious time and resources getting things back on course again.

Instead, embrace thoughtful digital transformation and keep your team collaboration cloud-based as much as possible. At the same time, set the stage for your employees to re-acclimate to the in-person collaborative process. That way, you can create a resilient and effective in-person workforce that is ready to work together, regardless of where, when, or how that work takes place.


Featured image provided by Jopwell; Pexels; Thanks!

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