Planning to reopen your office? Consider what these five types of employees want first.
The word of 2020 was “unprecedented”—many leaders closed their offices for the first time last March, without any idea of when they’d re-open. But after more than a year of uncertainty and confusion, the majority of Americans are expected to be partially vaccinated over the summer. And leaders are now faced with yet another unprecedented decision to make. How should you re-open your office after a year of working from home? How have your employees adapted their working styles, and what do they want next?
Every day since founding OfficeTogether, I’ve talked to thoughtful, people-focused leaders who are surprised by how well their teams have rallied in a fully remote environment. But, they also know that some return to the office is still the end goal. They want to know how to support their teams through the transition and how to make the right decisions with a lot of uncertainty. Their employees are asking for a reopening plan…but what do all the different types of employees want?
The short answer is: it depends. Some of your team members will want to be back in the office, yesterday. Others will have fully embraced life without commutes (or pants). And many will fall somewhere in the middle—ready to come back in some form, but not sure exactly how that looks.
Based on conversations with leaders, and my own experience of the last 12 months, here are five “types” of employees you might have on your team — and what they want when they return to the office.
The “Take Me Back”s
Who they are: These folks—frequently recent grads or younger folks who are new to your city—are known for their limitless appetite for themed happy hours (and strong opinions about snacks). They’ve built their social lives around your office and probably organized your touch football league, book club, and Dungeons and Dragons campaign. They’ve spent the pandemic keeping the social flames alive over Slack, even as they’re fighting for Wifi and table space with their roommates.
What they want: These team members want to get back to the office ASAP, full-time, full stop. They’ve been planning the “back to the office” party for months, and hope to cut down their Doordash bill.
The Corporate Climbers
Who they are: These employees tend to be mid-career pros who were hitting their stride just when the pandemic hit. Frequently spotted at the CEO’s lunch table, they’ve continued to network while working remote, but they’ve missed getting real facetime with their mentors—and the serendipitous “water cooler” moments with execs that could lead to new opportunities.
What they want: They’re happy to work maybe a day from home here or there each week—especially if it becomes dedicated focus time. But they work best (and climb fastest) when they’re face-to-face.
Who they are: They used to leave early and play catch-up after bedtime—now they’re supervising Zoom elementary school, delivering groceries to their elderly relatives, and negotiating for work time with their spouses. Parents and caretakers haven’t missed the commute, but they do miss your dish-free sink and Sesame Street-free conference room.
What they want: These folks have appreciated the extra family time and learned how much they can accomplish at home. But they’d love two or three days in-office every week — it would give them the mental space (and quiet) to do their best work.
The Digital Nomads
Who they are: These folks quickly saw that “work from home” might mean “work from Hawaii”—and their rotating, non-virtual backgrounds are the envy of All Hands. They miss their peers, and the buzz of a productive office, but they can’t imagine being permanently glued to the same desk.
What they want: They’d ideally come into the office when needed: for key planning sessions, to onboard a new teammate, or for a mission-critical happy hour. For this crew, a flexible set-up is the name of the game.
Who they are: Some of your team members—particularly those who mainly work on independent projects—have truly thrived working from home. They’ve always preferred email and Slack to hallway conversations, and they’ve never been so focused or productive.
What they want: As far as they’re concerned, an office is a waste of space. They’re happy to work from home forever.