December 30th, 2020


A 5-Minute Return-to-Work Plan for HR Leaders

While tech giants such as Apple and Google recognize the importance of face-to-face meetings and workplace software, and are eager to reopen their doors, the reality is that remote work is going to continue for most companies at least until the summer of 2021.

A Gartner survey revealed that more than 80% of leaders will allow their employees to work remotely at least part of the time. Many companies said they will use a hybrid approach of in-person and remote work as part of their return-to-work policy.

Use the next several months to determine the best practices for maintaining social capital and strengthening your company’s remote work culture to set you up for success in the new year.

Tips for supporting remote work culture

While nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, it’s possible to have a thriving, collaborative team and a strong remote culture.

Effective communication

Make sure your leaders are using the right channels of communication for the right purpose.

Challenging conversations should happen through video conference and not email, as it’s too easy to misinterpret tone. And instead of spending an hour trying to convey complex information in an email, a quick call might be a better use of time.

Avoid unnecessary meetings. If you can communicate something through email or project management software, you don’t need to meet and can improve the overall workplace experience. Maximize the meetings you do have by using video conferencing for team building, brainstorming, and problem solving.

Some employees may have a hard time reaching out for support when they aren’t in an office setting and are relying on a digital workplace experience. Advise leaders to use video calls to have one-on-one check-ins with their team members regularly if they haven’t already been doing so.

Also, encourage leaders to share their remote-work struggles and tools they use for coping. By setting an example, they will make their employees feel more comfortable discussing challenges.

Keep culture alive

Incorporate your company’s culture whenever possible. This can include using branding in your presentations, even if they are internal, or using meetings as an opportunity to discuss how your team’s current goals align with the mission of the company.

To keep it upbeat, consider a scavenger hunt where employees have five minutes to find an object in their digital workplace experience that represents their values or the values of the company.

Creating and maintaining connection

Nothing can take the place of those impromptu discussions at the water cooler or in the break room. But Front’s CEO Mathilde Collins’s remote strategies prove that with a little planning and the right technology, you can keep your employees connected.

Here are a few ways she keeps her remote work culture thriving:

  • Weekly AMAs (Ask Me Anything)
  • 24/7 Zoom Room for anyone to jump in and chat at any time
  • Lunch for 5 (Weekly cross-departmental virtual lunches)
  • Game night

Other companies are offering things like virtual happy hours after work and online classes, including ones of personal interest, such as meditation, cooking, or writing.

Leaders can start off team meetings with something fun or personal, such as asking everyone to talk about the first place they want to visit when they can travel, or a good movie or book they recently watched or read.

If your company hasn’t done so already, now is the time to do Clifton Strengths, DISC, Enneagram, or other assessments to help employees learn more about themselves and each other.

When incorporated appropriately and regularly, this gives them a common language they can use to discuss their strengths and learn to appreciate the diverse perspectives and personalities of their co-workers.

Big picture: Conversations and events that are purely social can be a good alternative to those small but powerful social interactions that happen naturally in person.

The right home office technology

When helping employees set up their home office, don’t assume they have what they need to be safe and successful. Here are a few things to consider.

Maximize existing tools

If your company is using Zoom or Teams, do your employees know how to use the breakout rooms for smaller group brainstorming sessions? How about the chat and hand-raising feature? Don’t assume they know.

Now is the time to educate employees on features they may not have learned about because they weren’t using the tools as frequently or were afraid to ask.

Employees who aren’t tech-savvy will have a harder time with remote work because they won’t be able to lean over and ask a coworker for help. They also may feel too embarrassed to reach out for help remotely.

Offer mini training sessions or even one-on-one help so people can ask questions without feeling self-conscious in front of their coworkers.

Prevent muscle and eye strain

Make sure your employees understand proper ergonomics and lighting to avoid eye strain and injury. They might not have the right equipment at home, such as an office chair with lumbar support or even a desk.

Equip for success

If your employees weren’t used to working remotely, you may have had to purchase laptops, printers, and other equipment needed for the job. Some companies offer reimbursement for equipment or a special allowance specifically for supplies.

If this isn’t in your company’s budget, consider allowing a small number of employees in the office each day for a brief period of time to use equipment such as copiers, printers, and scanners. As a safety precaution, you can even have them reserve their workspace using space booking software.


It’s not enough to let people know you want to hear from them if they need help. Consider anonymous surveys that ask employees about the struggles they’re having with their current workplace experience and suggestions for how you can better support them.

Encourage managers to reach out to their teams more often to ask how things are going and to have dedicated office hours on their calendar, signifying a virtual open door.

Make sure employees are aware of the resources available to them and how they work, such as the Employee Assistance Program. Some employees may not understand how or when to use it, or they may be afraid the company will know when they accessed it.

Stay connected with supportive software

Companies of all sizes are using apps, social media, and other tools to keep their remote work culture strong. Here are some examples:


Employees can have virtual conversations through customized channels based on both work and personal interests.


This program enables employees to reward each other with points they can use to purchase rewards.


You can enter names manually or import a spreadsheet of names for weekly prize drawings.


This user-friendly project management software makes it easy for people within and across teams to collaborate.


Create a company blog to keep people up-to-date and connected to the cause.


This secure cloud management makes it safe and easy to share data.

Until your company can have face-to-face meetings again, keeping people connected and your remote work culture strong will help preserve the social capital you spent years building.

To ensure your space is safe as you re-open, consider investing in workplace software that allows employees to reserve conference rooms, desks, and more from the device of their choice thanks to Teem’s room scheduler app and software.

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Teem by iOFFICE provides enterprises with space scheduling and management, workplace analytics, building, and campus wayfinding, and visitor management to help cultivate workplaces that fuel productivity, efficiency, and creativity.


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