Is it time to pack up your home office and start commuting again? You might not be ready, but your company’s leadership likely is. According to KPMG’s 2022 CEO Outlook, 65% of CEOs at multinational firms say they want workers back in cubicles 9-to-5 by 2025. As a prime example, this spring, Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook told his employees this in a memo, outlining his company’s April 11 hybrid back-to-work plan: “I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to being together again.” Are employees as eager?

“It’s so interesting to think that the early days of the pandemic, all of the challenges were around how you engage a workforce remotely, how you keep business continuity, how you do all of these things that we didn’t necessarily have the tools to do,” said Russell Dyer, chief communications officer and head of public and government affairs, at food company Mondelēz International. “And now we’re managing the inverse of that, which is how do you make the office a place that builds culture that can be a competitive advantage within your company, so it’s the type of place that you want to go and work. What is it incumbent upon leaders to do to make sure that employees see the advantage of being in the office while retaining the flexibility that we’ve all come to enjoy?”

In this PRovoke Media podcast, Dyer and Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of communications firm Ruder Finn, tackle Dyer’s question and many others: What strategies should business leaders adopt when moving forward? What is the right decision when it comes to the return to office debate? And how can company leaders identify the best approaches to attract and retain talent?

According to Bloomgarden, the answers to these questions are not simple, but most importantly, it’s not about where employees are working. It’s about how they are working.

“The question we really need to ask ourselves is, what is the work style?” she said. “It’s not about physically where you are, geographically, because a lot of people have moved all over the country. It’s really about how we create a new style of working together and what that means, what it looks like, what we expect from it.”

And just like it took more than two years to get to where we are now, we won’t get to the new normal overnight, either.

“This is a journey,” Bloomgarden said. “It’s not a one-point-in-time, oh, we digitized our operation. No, this is going to be an ongoing process. And, I think that the whole hierarchy within an organization needs to shift. And we really need to, together as a community, find the various ways that we can help each other problem solve. I think one thing that’s so interesting that you can only do in person is this idea of putting people together against a common challenge or problem, especially people from different walks of life.”

Topics Covered:

0:00: Introductions
1:09: Next Steps Post-Pandemic
6:35: New Work Style, Not New Workplace
9:24: Set Principles As Opposed To Policies
16:14: Communication Is At The Heart Of Change
19:37: Can Digital Tools Normalize Connections?
25:28: Put A Premium On Connection, Collaboration, Experience – Not Content
29:11: Work Needs To Be Fun
31:25: The Greatest Risk In This New Environment
36:05: Getting Leaders To Want To Engage Externally