A University of Louisville researcher has developed a roadmap he hopes will set companies up for success in bringing employees who have been working from home back to the office as coronavirus restrictions ease.
Brad Shuck, an organizational development researcher, inventor and associate professor, calls his four-step plan the “RISE Reintegration Model,” a strategic planning framework he says leaders in a range of industries can use to begin thinking through the questions and plans for bringing teams back into the physical workplace.
“Employee reintegration is coming as it becomes safer to do so,” Shuck said. “But from an organizational standpoint, that’s easier said than done. That’s why it’s important for companies to think through these factors and develop a proactive, intentional plan.”
Shuck’s RISE model centers on four “Rs,” the first being “Reset.” This step, he said, should begin two to three months ahead of bringing employees back, and asks companies to consider how their offices will be different than they were before pandemic shutdown. For example, there may be COVID-19 safety protocols, increased use of technology and employees who need time to adjust back from working out of their living rooms.
“Companies went through one major reset in 2020, when many employees began working remotely, and this is another major reset,” Shuck said. “It’s not going to go right back to business as usual. Things will likely look different than they did before. Companies need to prepare – and help their employees prepare – for that.”
The second R, “Restart,” happens in the first one to two months after companies restart in-person work. In this phase, Shuck said, companies should allow employees time to reacclimate to the old-but-new environment and put a heavy focus on short-term goals, which can build a sense of momentum, value and direction.
The third R, “Recalibrate,” should begin two to four months after companies reopen. In this phase, Shuck said, companies should focus on adjusting business strategy for new information, emerging market norms and a dynamic operating landscape dramatically changed by the global pandemic.
“As we look into the emerging economies of work, there is no country, no industry, no company, no team and no individual that the COVID-19 crisis did not touch in some way,” he said. “In some market spaces, entire industries changed. Some industries no longer exist. In other spaces, new industries and ideas have emerged.”
The last R, “Reinvent,” is all about taking lessons learned during the pandemic and integrating them into the company’s operations. For example, seeing that employees can work from home effectively may lead to giving them more flexibility in office hours. This phase, Shuck said, should happen four to eight months after companies bring employees back and then every six months for the next three years.
“With adapting to change, everything comes down to having a plan,” Shuck said. “By thinking things through and following a clear roadmap, companies give themselves the best chance of coming back better and stronger.”