Job Doc

We’re going back into the office using a hybrid model. However, I have an employee who was hired during the pandemic and has never gone into the office before. As a manager, is there anything I should be doing to get them more acclimated? Elaine Varelas provides insight

More and more, employees are coming back into the office. However, some employees that started during the pandemic are being invited in for the first time. Elaine Varelas provides insight on what managers can do to help employees transition into the office.

Ask the Job Doc.

Q: I’m a manager with an employee that has strictly been remote but is now going to be coming into the office. Is there anything I should be doing to get them acclimated?

A: Good for you for thinking ahead about the transition that will be impacting this employee. First let’s recognize why this person is being brought into the office and their general feelings about the change. All of this will have an impact on the kind of conversations you will want to have. Employees are being asked to come back after a full-remote situation due to COVID. During the lockdown, many employees welcomed working remotely and became quite comfortable with the new situation. They were happy with the additional personal or work time they gained, enjoyed eliminating commute time and cost, and created new schedules for their lives. Others missed the camaraderie of the office and the ability to learn informally from their colleagues while also developing stronger relationships with their peers. Your initial thoughts need to be focused on your employee’s desire to be either remote, to go hybrid, or to go back in the office, as well as the impact any changes will have on their life. All employees are looking for a meaningful description of the value returning the office will bring or in this case, what the benefits of joining an office-based staff will provide to the organization and to the individual.


You, your business, and your leadership team need to be able to articulate the strategic value that working in an office-based situation provides. Many organizations who were almost fully office based before COVID designed their work processes around being together physically, including designing their training, coaching, and assignment conversations with the idea of an office culture in mind. They grew to offer employees an informal development plan that often happened due to proximity. Whether a business has multiple offices or a single office, most leaders took advantage of this informal time, be it over coffee, over lunch, or during a meeting to talk with more junior employees and provide the opportunity for them to join other meetings for more development opportunities. Addressing these valuable interactions, and ensuring that they happen, will be a significant part of the conversation about why you are asking an employee to return to the office.

While examining the impact of returning to the office or being invited into the office, be aware of the many changes people have made to their schedules over the last two years. They care for relatives in the early morning, they’ve developed an exercise routine, or maybe they added pets to the family. You may not care at all – but they do, and if you aren’t empathetic to these changes, they will find an employer who is.


Organizations provide many ways to address the diverse wants of employees. For example, some businesses provide subsidized transit, parking, or some sort of incentive that can make the transition from remote to in-person just a little bit easier. Major organizations in cities (New York for example) have early release on Fridays in the summer. All of these are designed to provide employees with a better work-life balance. Staying attuned with the more positive impacts to your employees is important and key to making the transition successful while also retaining employees.

As you return to the office, helping your employee schedule time with other staff in person will be vital. Employees will not react well to be asked to come into the office only to do web-based meetings all day with other people at other locations without the ability to work with their team in the office. If this is the first time this person is meeting people face to face, arrange schedules to make for introductions. Allow them to spend 30 minutes to an hour interacting with their colleagues to understand who they are as peers, but also as individuals on their own. There may not be an opportunity for this to happen all at once but developing and strengthening those relationships will only help the continued efforts for employee retention. Creating or recreating a welcoming atmosphere with a private space in addition to shared space, coffee, and perhaps additional amenities will go a long way.


Understanding the impact of coming into the office (whether it’s day-care related, animals, travel, or transit) is crucial for you as a manager. Recognize and be empathetic to the changes and transitions. It doesn’t mean you need to change the ask of the employee, but it does call for a level of empathy that every transition needs to have. Make sure that you recognize this is a change and that the employee making the adjustment is appreciated. As a manager or leader, you can take a command-and-control style such as, “Well, of course you need to report into work.” This kind of tone is the type that leads to employees leaving. Being compassionate and understanding of the challenges that come with change is key to keeping your staff.


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