Returning to work after COVID: Here’s what we did and how it worked

by | Jul 2, 2021

If you’re contemplating returning the office after COVID, we’re right there with you.

Last week, Mod Op Strategic Consulting returned to in-person work, reopening our New York City and Charleston, SC offices. Unlike many companies prior to the pandemic, our employees already operated in a hybrid mode. In fact, some of our staff worked in an office every day, while others came in 2-3 days a week, and still others worked remotely most of the time.

Regardless of the hybrid model before though, we still had a lot to consider and think about in planning our return to the office in this post-COVID environment.

Because we had been working with clients over the last 12 months to help them shift, transform and capitalize on digital opportunities, we thought it may be helpful to share how our team went about it and what questions we asked to build our return to work plan.

Returning to the office: Factors to consider

Like many companies, Mod Op Strategic Consulting surveyed our staff to get a handle on several different areas. From health concerns to technology and travel, there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider:

  • Vaccines – Will you require them to return to the office, or have different rules for vaccinated vs unvaccinated workers?
  • Time in the office – How much remote work will you allow? Some industries, particularly regulated ones like financial institutions, are pushing for five days a week in the office. Others are aiming for a hybrid model – but, even then, you need to think about whether you want to manage the days in the office so that teams are there together or spaced apart in ways that might not be as productive. Some companies, particularly in technology, are leaving the work location decision entirely up to their workers.
  • Office maintenance –What will your policies be on mask wearing, social distancing, office cleaning, etc.? Will you follow federal guidelines, or customize your own?
  • Travel – Will you require travel for jobs that have needed it in the past? International as well as domestic?
  • Digital communication tools – Many companies have come to rely on Slack, Zoom, MS Teams, Dropbox, and many other communication apps more than ever before. How will use of these tools change as more people return to the office environment?

    We learned a lot from the survey results and informal conversations with staff (vaccine questions were handled in conversation rather than in the survey).

    There were a few key insights that emerged in our return to work conversations:

    People were more eager than we expected to come back to the office, just not five days a week.

    The average preference for in-office work was two to three days per week, with the other days spent working from home – and the first couple of weeks have proven that out. Now, we’re primarily in the office Tuesdays through Thursdays and the creative juices definitely seem to flow more on those days.

    Our white boards have never been used so much, and people seem genuinely happy to be in the same room working on issues for our clients. Mondays and Fridays are mostly work-from-home.

    For me personally, I know I have found that I can get a lot more writing done at home where I have fewer distractions!

    Virtual meetings were now a challenge.

    One issue that arose immediately when we returned to the office was the quality of our Zoom, Teams and other video conference meetings, specifically for the participant on the other end if it was a 1 to many scenario. This was specifically the case whenever two or more of us gathered in a conference room because we were all using a single microphone on a laptop.

    We also found we had to relearn the mute-button techniques for avoiding echoes – problems, we realized, that had largely disappeared when everyone was joining from home.

    Despite the challenges, we are excited for the months ahead as we return to a hybrid state of work in what’s sure to be a “new normal” for years to come.

    What does your back to work plan look like?

    We’d love to hear more about your experiences in returning to work after covid, including the success and challenges you’ve encountered.

    For additional reading about effectively implementing hybrid work policies, we highly recommend:

    If you have comments or questions, feel free to drop us a line and share your thoughts.

    Need help crafting your back to work strategy?

    Request a copy of the questions you can use to talk with your team and begin building your hybrid work model.

    Len Gilbert

    Len Gilbert, COO

    Len has over 25 years of industry experience and is passionate about helping clients understand their digital potential, especially focusing on digital strategy and digital growth. At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, Len is responsible for building out the company's digital transformation and advisory services and scaling the company's external business and internal capabilities.

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