Fostering Psychological Safety: Supporting Your Team through the Return to Office Transition
Updated: Nov 1
If your company is mandating a return to office (RTO), the process will be far more nuanced than simply managing the logistics. It's a deeply human experience, particularly for those who have grown accustomed to remote work and found it personally and professionally advantageous.
As a manager, you can leverage the principles of psychological safety to support your team through this transition and foster a sense of trust.
Transparency is Key:
Transparency is a cornerstone of trust. Leaders should provide clear, honest, and well-founded explanations for why the decision to return to the office has been made, especially if it conflicts with why remote opportunities were offered in the first place. Employees are more likely to embrace the change when they understand the rationale behind it and feel that their concerns are being addressed.
Seek Employee Feedback:
When employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment - psychological safety is thriving. Create opportunities for employees to openly share their feelings and concerns, whether through one-on-one discussions, team meetings, or anonymous feedback channels. Providing a platform for employees to share their thoughts can be both cathartic and insightful, and demonstrates you are invested in their well-being.
Empathize with Employee Experiences:
Demonstrating empathy and compassion can go a long way in creating a safe workplace culture and it starts by putting people first. When employees share challenges or apprehensions that come with the RTO transition, use active listening skills, take a non-judgmental approach, and validate their experience. By showing genuine care and concern for your team members' well-being, it will increase trust and respect amidst the transition.
Aligning Benefits with Key Challenges:
As you collect feedback from your employees, consider how you can use their concerns as a catalyst for new strategies that will improve the RTO transition. For instance, if commuting or inadequate parking facilities are a common concern, investing in a travel stipend may improve the employee experience. Alternatively, you may discover that providing childcare benefits—ranging from on-site care options to subsidizing costs—could help employees balance professional life with being a caretaker. By aligning benefit offerings with the challenges that matter most to employees, organizations can create a more appealing and accommodating return-to-office experience.
At its core, returning to the office in some capacity when done intentionally and with care, can be an opportunity to come together as a team even when opinions differ around the decision. Let’s champion the human experience, and emerge ready to thrive wherever our work environment takes us next.