How do we get people back in the office?

Mark Lewis
June 29, 2023

The Great Debate: WFH vs WFO

This is the top question I'm getting in private conversations at the moment.

It creates tension between WFH vs WFO and sends us down a path of 'solutions' like mandated days in the office or setting up perks to attract people to the office. Then it sparks all the debate about where we are more productive or collaborative… which is guaranteed to see us going in circles citing studies that support each argument.

Unpacking the Real Tension: Executives vs Employees

But we’re actually missing the point. The tension is not really about WFH vs WFO.

It’s really about what senior execs believe is best for the organisation vs what employees believe is best. The decider for this type of tension has historically been ‘won’ based on where the power balance sits between employer and employee.

Why Power Play Isn’t the Solution

However, it’s not a good idea to solve this tension using power because it inevitably ends up with one party feeling hard done by…. and when the power balance shifts we all know what will happen!

Reframing the Question: Creating a Working Arrangement That Works

So back to the question… how do we get people back in the office? First, reframe to: How do we create a working arrangement that works for our organisation? Then:

  • Identify a group of employees that make good representatives of the different teams in the organisation, be sure to include different levels of seniority.
  • Invite them to a workshop: “Designing our Flex Working Experience”
  • Have everybody share their ideal working arrangements and why from their perspectives. At a minimum include as an individual, as a manager, as a team and as an organisation. You can get more granular with audiences such as new starters, juniors, seniors etc.
  • Understand there will be compromises as a solution is massaged to work for all perspectives.
  • Document the key discussion points, tensions and outcomes, then share across a broader audience as a final check that nothing major was missed in the process.
  • Launch the policy as v1 for 6 months that will likely change, seek feedback and iterate with v2.

Make employee experience your competitive advantage!

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