6 guidelines for CEOs on returning to the office

Vaccinations are rolling out and COVID-19 infection rates are curbing, leading to pressures on CEOs on how to return to the office. CEO adviser Dan Ciampa gave six guidelines to returning to the office in a Feb. 25 column published by Harvard Business Review.

Mr. Ciampa said CEOs are perplexed on addressing these decisions since many employees today say they prefer working remotely. CEOs have questions like: How do I handle tasks that are best-completed face-to-face? What is the long-term impact of splitting the workforce? When do I have to make these decisions and whom should I listen to?

He gave six guidelines to answer these questions:

  1. Resist pressure to make final decisions until all the data is gathered. One key factor is to buy time and leave options open as long as possible.

  2. Avoid discussing personal preferences to avoid influencing internal analysis.

  3. Don't give employee surveys too much weight as opinions sway. Leave those results as one data point. Conduct separate surveys for managers, since their experiences are different.

  4. Company size is an important factor. Smaller companies can make decisions on a person-to-person basis, while larger companies need routines and blanket policies.

  5. CEOs must consider the cost of an over-reliance on technology. Face-to-face interactions muster up more creativity than ones online, Mr. Ciampa said.

  6. Avoid being influenced by large-profile companies that say they are embracing remote work. Oftentimes, these companies have financial gains from an increased online presence. 

"Policies about the mix of remote and in-office work have ramifications beyond short-term cost and efficiency," Mr. Ciampa said. "Decisions that CEOs make over the next few months will set the tone for how work will be done in the future, impacting the relationships employees have formed and their emotional connection with the company. They should be made carefully."

More articles on leadership and management:
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Pandemic led to big healthcare-industry fortunes — now they're evaporating


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