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Key takeaways:

  • Establish fair and flexible policies: Strengthen inclusivity through initiatives like virtual meetings and immersive conference room experiences to bridge the on-site and remote gap.
  • Leverage technology to maximize impact: Align your tools with company culture to shape the employee experience strategy. Collaboration tools and innovative AI-driven solutions are pivotal in enhancing remote work interactions and engagement.
  • Highlight positive in-person experiences: Use employee storytelling from those who have positive in-office experiences to showcase the benefits of returning to the office. Authentic narratives help build trust with your employees while navigating negative sentiment in RTO policies.

One of the most pressing topics employee experience (EX) leaders are tackling now is managing expectations for remote work and return-to-office policies.

With tensions rising and 90 percent of company leaders expecting return-to-office policies to be implemented by the end of 2024, setting clear guidelines and establishing support for all employees is more critical than ever.

In a recent Employee Experience Board panel discussion about standing up an effective EX program, our Board Members shared how they’re addressing RTO policies and managing the expectations of employees enterprise-wide.

Balancing Remote Benefits with In-Office Experiences

Christopher Hawkins, Director of HRIS, Payroll, Data Governance, and Reporting at Grainger, emphasized the importance of striking a balance between the advantages of remote work and the value of face-to-face interactions.

“What we’ve focused on for bringing people back is bringing our team members together through moments that matter,” Christopher said. “In areas that make them feel encouraged to come in.”

During the panel, he added how Grainger is nurturing relationships and bolstering interactions between employees through avenues such as town halls and shared meals, while still accommodating remote work flexibility.

“What we’ve focused on for bringing people back is bringing our team members together through moments that matter.”

Christopher Hawkins, Grainger

Christopher also stated that having the option to work remotely is beneficial for all employees, even those who choose to come in person, in order to focus on different projects and not be distracted with in-office gatherings and amenities.

Creating Flexible Policies and Fairness

Kate Zimberg, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at F5, discussed the importance of integrating flexibility and adaptability into your approach.

At F5, Kate shared their flexible initiatives that set expectations based on proximity to the office. One example she shared was their semi-annual meeting which took place virtually. Recognizing that only a third of their workforce could’ve joined in-person, Kate said her team at F5 wanted to create equal opportunities to participate in this meeting and provide input on larger company goals.

She also said their business leaders acknowledge the challenges with employees in different locations that might limit physical presence, which led to the implementation of all virtual meetings.

To further drive fair policies and flexible options, Kate explained that they’re enhancing the conference room experiences by creating a more immersive setting, aiming to build engagement and connectivity whether employees are on-site or remote.

Leveraging Technology as a Unifying Force

Nicole Sloane, HR Director of Global Employee Experience at Kimberly-Clark, discussed the importance of aligning policies and tools with company culture.

She highlighted the pivotal role of collaboration tools and company-issued devices in shaping the overall employee experience.

“If your technology needs some work, or your collaboration tools need some work, that’s where you need to focus to start bringing that together,” Nicole said. “Technology and collaboration tools are pivotal; they serve as the window into the company.”

“If your technology needs some work, or your collaboration tools need some work, that’s where you need to focus to start bringing that together.”

Nicole Sloane, Kimberly-Clark

She also mentioned the emergence of AI-driven solutions and innovative collaboration tools that are revolutionizing the way remote workers interact and engage with their in-office counterparts.

“I’ve seen avatars for if you’re not camera ready, or you want a representation of yourself,” Nicole said. “There are all kinds of creative things coming. AI helps in some ways for people to catch up on what they missed. There’s a lot to think about, and a lot in that space.”

Alleviating Negative Employee Sentiment Toward RTO Policies

Employee Experience Board members shared more insights in a separate leadership discussion on RTO policies and enhancing employee experiences. They provided insights on how they’re addressing negative employee sentiment surrounding return-to-office policies.

Some of the recommendations our members shared to alleviate negative experiences included scheduling specific in-office days to promote collaboration and hosting exclusive in-person events like all-hands meetings and fireside chats.

They also shared that implementing tools allowing employees to reserve workspaces helps facilitate coordination across all teams.

Crafting effective communication was also a key point for organizations implementing mandated RTO policies. Our members explained that effective messaging is crucial to create transparency amongst employees, and your communications should align with your company’s culture and values.

Members also said incorporating employee storytelling from those who have positive experiences with their return to the office can be effective. Authentic testimonials can be a powerful way to connect with your workforce and build buy-in.

Benchmark your Return-to-Office Policies with Your Peers Leading EX at Large Companies

Navigating RTO policies can be challenging, but you don’t have to strategize alone.

From managing employee expectations to creating flexible and fair policies, Employee Experience Board members have a confidential space to benchmark their strategies.

Learn how a membership can provide you with actionable insights on how to implement effective RTO policies to enhance your EX strategy moving forward.

Interested in learning more about membership?

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