Google employees returned to the office this week after more than two years of working remotely and changing plans about when – and how – to bring people back.
The tech giant joins a growing list of companies repatriating workers this spring, including Meta, American Express and Apple. The Google New hybrid working arrangement Most employees are required to be in the office at least three days a week, with the other two days devoted to working remotely.
Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, had been eagerly anticipating a return for months. “I missed working alongside people,” he says. CNBC do it. “There is some joy and a certain sense of optimism that I feel back.”
There are also practical benefits to being back in the office: Soltero joined Google in October 2019, five months before the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“Between vacations and business trips, I haven’t really had the opportunity to meet the people on my team and build strong relationships with them,” he says. “I hardly know where the bathroom is!”
Soltero plans to be in the office at least two days a week — and while he’s excited about Google’s mixed working arrangements, he notes that companies can go “a lot” wrong in starting their return to the office.
Here are the “three biggest mistakes” Soltero recommends leaders avoid:
While some jobs need to be done in person, others can be performed anywhere with a strong internet connection – and corporate strategies for returning to the office must take these nuances seriously.
Conversations about hybrid work often focus on where people work rather than when or how, and often leave frontline workers, whose jobs largely require personal work, out of the equation.
“Managers should think more about how to provide flexible and blended working arrangements, even for people whose jobs require them to be on site,” Soltero says.
This means on-site employees have flexible hours and tools like apps that help them see schedule changes in real time, connect to corporate headquarters faster, and meet customers by video.
Soltero adds that his team is constantly improving the functionality of Google Workplace products, including Gmail, Google Meet, and Google Calendar, to meet these needs.
Some companies are quick to blame botched work-from-home experiences on technology issues, whether it’s a slow internet connection, outdated software, or a lack of in-person IT support.
“Many people remain uncomfortable with video conferencing and other technology software, and neglect learning how to use it to their advantage until it becomes a serious problem,” he adds.
Rather than raising their hands and forcing employees to go back to the usual routine of being in the office 5 days a week, Soltero says companies need to embrace the technology and include clear instructions on how to integrate it into their plans to return to the office.
Managers should communicate with employees about the best methods for communication, video meetings, and document sharing, and develop guidelines on how to use them.
As more companies adopt mixed business models, managers and HR leaders have raised concerns about close bias, or leaders favoring employees who are often in the office for promotions and salary increases.
In an effort to tackle this problem, some companies have become obsessed with how to better engage employees through meetings, often adding more or more meetings to employee calendars, so that people have an equal chance of skipping. Bosses, no matter where they are.
Although Soltero acknowledges that close bias is a “real and relevant problem” companies will have to deal with in the coming months, “there is a lot to work on from meetings and client calls,” he says.
Instead, leaders should focus on reshaping the social contracts, or expectations, within their organization: keeping meetings shorter, defining “off-peak hours” to communicate clearly, and deliberating about where and how to conduct creative brainstorming.
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