3 Ways to effectively transition employees back into the office

The thought of going back into the office is causing anxiety for some and excitement for others. Going into the office doesn’t seem like a bad idea if your office has been a small makeshift nook of your home, or you can’t take a call without hearing someone else in the other room on their call. Or maybe it’s the loneliness that some employees have expressed and the need to be in a face-to-face environment. As leaders, this is a balancing act, and one that brings a complexity of issues and decisions.

If your workplace has plans to move back into the office here are 3 ways you can make the transition easier on your employees.

1. Provide an adjustment period

Grace. While the switch from working in the office to remote work happened within the blink of an eye, going back into the office will be much different. Be transparent with your team about expectations moving forward and remind them that they’ll have much more time to readjust than previously. 

Determine a timeline for when you expect people to come into the office, so everyone can make plans accordingly and mentally prepare. Some employees now have to adjust school schedules (drop off and pick up). Others may have elderly parents that they take care of and need help while in the office. Give yourselves and employees grace.

Although pre-covid most of us were working in an office, a year later much has changed. Ease your team back into the office. Try starting with a few days at home and eventually get back to your desired days of work in the office. With the social aspect of work having been almost non-existent since working from home, this provides a great opportunity to get employees excited about connecting with each other in person again. 

2. Listen and respond to what employees want

Flexibility. If we’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s not about only obtaining feedback but executing on the feedback we receive from our teams accordingly. Our teams want to feel heard and that their opinions are valued. Conduct regular meetings to check in around the plan to return to the office, so that you can hear what people have to say and address any concerns they may have. Take it on a case by case basis. Everyone’s concerns are different. Health concerns should be taken seriously and it’s important to consider how to regulate cleanliness protocols. 

Remember, the transition back into the office should be centered around both company and employee needs. This will show how much you care and value them as a part of your team. Many employers are taking a hybrid approach where they only have a percentage of the workforce coming back into the office. Or different departments are in the office on different days to allow for flexibility. Ask yourself what’s the best way to achieve balance and tweak your plan accordingly.

3. Have clear safety protocols

I host a wellness show and one of the comments/questions we received when talking about this issue was employees understanding how the company is going to protect them. This is a valid concern and one that we must address.

We are responsible to make it very clear in practice that we care about their safety. Will people that have not been vaccinated be allowed in the office? Will we require masks? Will there be distance between cubicles? What are the cleaning protocols? What is the protocol if someone tests positive? These are some of the questions that we must answer.

When we communicate openly and honestly with our teams, this decreases confusion, anxiety and fear that has been associated with going back into the office.

Each transition will look different for each organization. If we understand there will be an adjustment period, listening to our employees may just provide us with answers and a new way of re-imaging the office environment.


Voya is collaborating with Portia Scott through the Voya Just Right Advantage™ program to deliver value-add education to minority, women, veteran, disability and LGBTQ-owned small businesses and not-for-profits. These communities have felt a disproportionate impact from the pandemic, and Voya is providing extra support and help.

Portia is the host of the Wake Up & Show Up podcast, speaker and vision execution partner on a mission to inspire and empower individuals with the tools they need to make their goals clear and plan of action clearer.

Portia Scott and Portia Scott Media LLC., are not affiliated with the Voya family of companies. Portia Scott Media LLC., has received compensation from Voya for participation in educational programming, supporting Voya's Just Right Advantage program.

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