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The 4 Questions That Helped Us Return To The Office

Rahul Khosla
Author Rahul Khosla
Ellipse 7
Author George Sanchez
Published On Sep 08, 2022

To return to in-person work or not to return? That’s the question facing so many CEOs and organizations, including us, since rising vaccination rates and falling case numbers began to shape a vision of the post-pandemic landscape. Here at Heady, we believe that there’s no one right approach (other than listening to our most important stakeholders, our employees). 

That being said, we’ve put an immense amount of thought and strategy into navigating these new waters with the goal of keeping our organization and our culture intact. So we decided to share the four pivotal questions that guided our decision-making, both for the benefit of our own internal team as well as other organizations currently wrestling with the same decision.

While this is the approach Heady took after much consideration and collaboration, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription here: Your organization’s needs may be different, and we encourage you to find your own North Star when it comes to finding the balance between a return to normalcy and keeping employees safe.

Why are we asking employees to return to the office?

We knew that understanding the “why” needed to be our north star — so we started there. For us, the idea of having a physical office space was to get people together, which told us two more things right away. First, that segmenting our team and returning in groups would not support that togetherness, and secondly that we needed to secure an office — stat.

As far as any concerns about productivity suffering while our team was at home, we took into consideration the fact that many employees have reported being less productive in the office than at home due to the distractions that come with group spaces. But on the flip side, the socialization, human connection and team building benefits of being in-person were so central to our mission that we felt it balanced out any slight dip in output, as the emotional benefits are of equal importance. Which brought us to our next question…


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What kind of culture did we want to build (or in our case, maintain) at Heady?

We believe that the strong relationships we forged with our people pre-pandemic, especially at the leadership level, allowed us to weather this transition. If our team had been unhappy or depleted beforehand, going from in-person work to WFH and back again would have been tough. 

Thanks in part to internal engagement surveys, we knew that our team as a whole felt supported and heard (and that was reinforced when we became a certified Great Place to Work). We knew that our team genuinely liked their work, their coworkers, and being in the company of their coworkers.

We’ve worked hard to build our team, our culture, and our extremely high retention rate, and maintaining all three was a top priority. So we knew that if we brought people back to the office, we had to build time into their days to nurture the strong interpersonal connections that encourage them to stick around. We also knew that we needed a space that would physically support that. This brought us to our next decision…

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What would the office space and work day need to look like in this new setup?

Guided by our core operating principle of equality, we agreed that the in-person work days should be fixed days (for us, it’s Tuesday and Wednesday), and that everyone who was able should come in on those days. But we knew we needed to offer our employees something that they couldn’t get while working at home.

 We felt strongly that the reason team members came in on those days needed to be to do something collaborative, both for their own mental health and the health of the company — and that if the in-person days didn’t look any different than the at-home days, then we as management were doing something wrong. Events like lunch & learns, guest speakers, happy hours, and team outings provide a boost of camaraderie that a Zoom call simply never could.

We knew that the physical environment of the space had to be carefully considered too, because people had adapted to a different baseline while working from home. Most of our calls to other time zones happen in the morning, so we needed to control noise to avoid distractions for other team members. We designed spaces to look more like a living room, with natural light, leather couches, and an abundance of plants. We also added standing desks and ergonomic chairs for everyone, both to promote comfort and to foster collaboration and creativity. We also settled on assigned seating to promote a sense of consistency and help employees develop a rapport with deskmates.

We also considered details like connectivity and conference room availability, because we didn’t want to ask folks to return to the office and then be faced with tech issues or being unable to find a space to meet. We kept our team’s needs top of mind when approaching the return to office, and we hope that the days they spend in-person reflect this attention to detail.


Finally, we asked ourselves, What are we willing to be flexible over, and are we willing to keep revisiting this process?

Though we felt strongly that everyone who was able to should come in for the in-person days, there will of course always be extenuating circumstances to handle on a case-by-case basis. But we also needed to decide if we’d be willing to walk away from talented hiring prospects for whom commuting is a deal breaker. And just as we’d set out to democratize the hybrid work model by asking for input and feedback from our team, we had to ask ourselves: Were we willing to be flexible with how it looks, and even be open to revising how it looks down the line?

Ultimately, this is uncharted territory for us and for so many other organizations. Even though these questions are still being debated (and new ones arise each day!), we at Heady are open to making it an iterative process based on feedback and mutual respect. This is the approach that worked for us, and asking yourself these same questions may prove helpful for your own organization — but ultimately, you’ve got to find your own North Star.

How is your organization approaching the “return to office” debate? Did your own decision-making process align with ours (or radically differ?). We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out at heythere@heady.io and tell us your thoughts. 

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Author

Rahul Khosla
Ellipse 7

Author

George Sanchez
Group 739-1

Interested in a career at Heady?

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Interested in a career at Heady?

Excellent! We are always looking for great talent.

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