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Planning beyond the return to the office

May 22, 2020| Reading time: 7min

BY Ian White

Founder, CEO, and CTO

This week, tech’s biggest companies announced big steps toward supporting a more distributed workforce. Twitter announced employees can work remotely forever, Facebook expects half of its employees to work remotely while others are rebranding as remote-first or digital by default.

In the midst of the return to work conversation, how can companies plan for adjustments to their current layouts and for future real estate needs, all while keeping employees’ needs at the center?

Planning with intentionality

There are many factors that affect whether an employee will want to come into the office (we covered some of those in this previous post). Recent surveys estimate that 2 out of 3 workers are anxious about returning so it is important to give employees agency in this decision. It is also important for companies to define the guidelines upfront, and to do so through an inclusive and equitable lens.

Companies need to start defining which types of workers will need to be in the office (i.e. Facebook announced it will not hire new grads remotely), how decisions to relocate will affect compensation and what programs need to be built out to ensure those that do come into the office don’t benefit from preferential treatment.

To start planning intentionally for a return to the office and to prepare for longer term real estate needs, you need to start collecting and analyzing information now. Below is a framework for collecting and analyzing the necessary data from employees to help you make these strategic decisions. For ChartHop customers, we created a bundle enable the collection of this data and accompanying reports.

You can also download the Return to Work guide here:

Collecting Information

When planning for both the short term and long term, you need to know whether employees want to return to their current office, what that might look like for them and any plans they may have to relocate given increase remote-friendliness.

You should decide whether you want to collect this information anonymously or not. For any answer, we suggest providing an option for Undecided and Prefer not to say. Of course, keep in mind that these answers might change as personal situations evolve and depend on requirements around social distancing, wearing masks, limits to social gatherings, etc.

Here are our suggested questions:

  • When we open up an office again, do you plan on coming in at all? Please consider that we will likely have requirements around social distancing, wearing masks, group congregations, temperature screens & more.
  • If you answered yes or undecided, how many days a week do you envision coming into the office?
  • Are you considering moving out of commuting distance from your current office?
  • If you’re considering it, would you move within commuting distance from another office location?
  • If you’re considering it, which office?
  • Anything else you’d like us to know as it relates to planning a return to the office?

If you’re a ChartHop user, you can install the bundle with this form here. For every employee, this information will be visible to them, their manager and other managers within their reporting structure (it will be aggregated if the form is sent anonymously). No need to create a different spreadsheet for each manager or worry about sending the wrong one and exposing private information!

Visualizing & Analyzing Information

We’re big believers in the power of context and visualizations in helping you make better decisions.

Org chart visualize

As you’re collecting the information, develop a plan to compile and analyze the data in a way that leaders across the organization can easily digest it. Think about which dimensions are the most relevant and make sure you gather all of the data from the various systems.

ChartHop houses necessary data like which office employees regularly work out of, which department and teams they’re a part of, their tenure at the company, their experience level and even historical performance reviews. We suggest you compile this information and analyze the data you collect within that context.

Report remote or moving

We suggest you start by looking at:

  • The number of employees plan on coming into the office by location, department, performance rating and tenure
  • How many days/week do employees envision coming into the office by location, department, performance rating and tenure
  • The number of employees who are considering moving out of commuting distance from your current office by current location
  • The number of employees who are considering moving within commuting distance of another office by current location
  • If you have additional offices, the number of employees who are considering alternative offices by current location and by department

For ChartHop customers, we also recommend analyzing your org chart and your map across all of these different dimensions. These visualizations, coupled with the Report, make the data come to life and help leaders make decisions faster.

  • Highlight Org Chart (link) and Map (link) by plan to coming into the office
  • Highlight Org Chart (link) and Map (link) by how many days/week employees want to come in
  • Highlight Org Chart (link) and Map (link) by plans to move
  • Highlight Org Chart (link) and Map (link) by their potential new office

Map by office and plan

Organizational understanding is key to a great plan

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, shares that “The push happening around remote work is game-changing for the future of tech… it will change how products will be designed, how teams collaborate, and how companies will be run going forward.”

There is a lot of planning ahead of us as this continues to evolve. How these decisions are made will ultimately make or break many organizations. Now is the time for People leaders and execs to develop a deep understanding of their people’s needs and wants so they can plan accordingly.

Org breakout

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