Ask the Coach:
People have a psychological need to connect and collaborate. And, I’m not talking about those virtual “How’s it going?” or “Is that a Westie?” I’m talking about the discussions not governed by the clock or calendar. I’m talking about those over-the-wall and feet-on-the-desk conversations. The impromptu discussions that solve something or shed light on something tricky. Your employee may be underestimating her own value as a “go-to-resource” when working alongside her peers and colleagues. You might think about leveraging those perspectives.
My suggestion is to reflect on your own culture and ask, “What is the loss of our impromptu conversations costing us?" (i.e., in terms of decision quality and timeliness, comradery, and financial).
Microsoft recently did a survey on work/life balance. The technology company, which has been surveying its own 150,000 + workforce, says the data shows that managers who take a more active role in helping employees manage work/life balance and prioritize tasks have the more engaged teams.
If your employee is in Denial, focus on building trust. Mutual trust and support is fundamental to helping them surface their concerns and begin to acknowledge the change. If the employee is in Resistance, ask them questions and listen to their responses. Identify the specific source of what they are resisting so that you can clearly define the problem(s) to be solved.
If your employee is open to exploring solutions (Exploration), give them direction and offer various workable options. Once in Commitment, offer your support and make sure the environment supports the solutions or options that have been agreed to.
When presenting a solid argument for physically returning to the office focus primarily on the relationship component (Collaboration, cross-training, advanced communication, etc.) You may want to turn to the company’s vision, value, or culture statements to explore the relationship components. Most companies place a value on establishing collaborative relationships with clients and fellow professionals.
By focusing on both the technical and relationship components of the job, you present a solid case for successful completion of the “entire” job.