How Leaders Can Call for Return To Office Without De-motivating Their People Using T.I.E.

By Delores (Dee) Conway posted in Leading Remote Teams, Return To Office (RTO), Hybrid Work Environment


Leaders don’t force people to follow, they invite them on a journey” – Charles S. Lauer

This article is co-authored by Dee Conway and Bridget Russell, Ed.D.

There’s been a great deal of dialogue on the return to office (or RTO). From business need, to timing, to individual impacts, the discussion has been… robust, to put it lightly.

But what if you as a leader are considering whether it’s time for your team to return. There are a ton of angles to this issue, so before you make a decision and present your people with a potentially shocking ultimatum, take some time to consider the individual factors, and then TIE it all together into a more presentable package.

Part 1: Tie down your reasoning—Challenge your mindset and leader behaviors

The first question to ask is “why now?” Take a pause and reflect on why you are asking your people to return to the office. The reasons may seem obvious to you—perhaps even to your team—but those feelings aren’t always so easily communicated to all levels of the organization.

Perhaps it isn’t obvious. If that’s the case, then it’s time to start asking some more serious questions about RTO or Hybrid:

  1. Why now? What is happening that makes the proposed timing ideal?
  2. Who benefits from having everyone back in the office? Are these benefits tangible, business-critical, and backed by data… or are they more anecdotal?

There are no right or wrong answers to the questions above. They simply help leaders in examining the business case for RTO, then challenging old ways of thinking that may interfere with an unbiased view of what is business-critical.

Part 2: Tie your teams together to create one unified culture.

A great many businesses tout “culture” as one of their highest values, yet don’t stop to consider some of the most critical aspects in shaping a culture. A company’s culture isn’t defined by holiday get-togethers or annual ice cream socials; it’s defined by the daily behavior of its people.

Additionally, a company’s culture absolutely cannot be split between remote workers and those returning to the office. That kind of duality only breeds resentment and will not last long-term. Leaders can’t properly inspire others or make lasting change without tying remote and hybrid working cultures together as one. Start with a T.I.E.: Trust, Inclusion, and Empowerment.


Establish and role model trust with your team by

  • Establishing ways of working, including check-ins for specific work and removing barriers to performance
  • Engage in dialogue about the why and what, not the how
  • Catch people doing it “right” and provide reinforcement

Challenge yourself as a leader to engage in daily acts of inclusion. Whether your team is remote, in the office, or hybrid, what can you do to get to know them better?

  • How can you showcase their ideas or seek their expertise?
  • How can you provide opportunities through coaching or mentorship?
  • How can you, as a leader reinforce others engaging in daily acts of inclusion?

Meet with your team and align on where they are empowered to complete a series of tasks or make decisions

  • Allow your team to work independently and communicate what you will do to support them
  • Providing coaching and support
  • Be open to feedback for new ideas and new ways of doing things

Bringing people back into the office, continuing to work from anywhere, or any combination of the two requires behaviors to be shaped over a long period of time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to make every employee happy with the RTO or hybrid circumstances, but fostering an environment of trust, inclusion, and empowerment can spark Discretionary PerformanceSM.

Discretionary Performance occurs when people don’t just have to do work, they want to. Striving for that kind of employee engagement is understandable, but getting there is difficult, and may require some assistance… Tying together any amount of people and forming a unified, engaged culture is no easy task. Who will TIE your organization together as one team?

Are you ready to take your employees on the journey back to the office?  


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Return to Office: Questions Employees Should Answer to Successfully Prepare

By Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO), Hybrid Work Environment


In our series on preparing for return to office (RTO) and hybrid work arrangements, we have focused primarily on what organizations and leaders need to consider in making these arrangements successful. However, at the end of the day, the success of these transitions ultimately depends on how all employees—regardless of title or position—are able to be engaged, safe, productive, and successful.

While it’s clear how expectations, processes, and support structures—put in place by organizations and leaders—have a huge impact on how the change to a hybrid work environment happens, there is actually a lot each employee can do to prepare for the transition and own some of that success.

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4 Metrics Critical to Measuring Success of a Hybrid Work Environment

By Brian Cole, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO), Hybrid Work Environment


As we start thinking about a sustainable hybrid workforce model, it’s important to also consider how we’ll know that hybrid models get the benefits we need in terms of employee engagement and business results. That means leaders can’t forget to measure progress and impact.

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Return to Office Communications: 8 Questions Leaders Should Be Prepared To Answer

By Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO), Hybrid Work Environment


“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote before. But at no time did it ring truer to me than now. Before the pandemic, communication was routinely one of the biggest challenges of any transformation—or rather, the inconsistency, ineffectiveness, or complete absence of any given communication. But now we live in a time where ensuring timely, effective communication is concurrently easier (through technology) and more difficult (through remote work) than ever before.

On that backdrop we are now tasked with one of the trickiest transformations yet: the Return to Office (RTO). Whatever your model will look like—all virtual, hybrid, a mix depending on role—the transition will be difficult. What’s making it even more difficult is the fact that right now we can’t say for sure if the new ways of working will stick, or if once we’ve made the move, we’ll just have to return to virtual work in the near future.

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Return to Office - 8 Tips for Today’s Leaders

By Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO)


If you’re a people leader, the past year hasn’t been easy. While the pandemic strained supply chains, changed consumer and customer needs, and put into question strategic growth plans, it also put a spotlight onto new employee needs around wellbeing and engagement. All of these topics have one thing in common: You, as a leader, are tasked with adapting to all these challenges and making the most of these changes. While many initially thought these shifts might be temporary, the reality has set in that they may be here to stay—and that more changes are on the horizon.

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The Power of Company Culture in the Return to Office

By Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO)


When the pandemic forced us all to move into virtual work environments, there was one topic that immediately worried leaders and employees alike: How do we keep our company culture going strong? How can we ensure that we don’t lose the culture that keeps us all connected? While a valid question, for many it never truly was resolved. The demands of focusing on emergency response plans, moving the entire company to a virtual model, and dealing with supply chain issues—among many others—caused a focus on firefighting and surviving.

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Return-to-Office (RTO): Moving From Emergency-Mode to Positive Growth

By Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. posted in Return To Office (RTO)


It’s approaching two years since the pandemic forcefully transformed our lives. For most of us, it was an abrupt transition from customary ways of working to a virtual work environment. There was no alternative – we had to figure it out and make it work.

Ultimately, we realized that working remotely fit many people pretty well, driving higher-than-expected engagement numbers and keeping productivity high after the initial shock.

Fast forward to today. We’re still dealing with the pandemic, but businesses are realizing that it’s time to redirect their organizations for positive growth. There is renewed hope that we will overcome this virus – or at least get better at living with it. The show must go on, and we can’t be in “emergency mode” forever.

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