How To Get Your Team Comfortable In The Office Again

How To Get Your Team Comfortable In The Office Again

Ross Blog (2)  Ross Palley

Great tides are turning, and we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel for folks all over the Commonwealth! With vaccinations ticking up, more founders in our community are returning to the office. Many of them, however, are unsure of how to get their teams comfortable with the change.

At Venture Lane, we've had the luxury of seeing firsthand how founders are easing their teams back towards in-person collaboration, so we put together a few best practices we've seen work well.

Lead by example…

  • Founder CEOs break the seal. We've been in close contact with all members of the team at Venture Lane startups throughout the pandemic, and CEOs were the first ones to say "I'm going crazy at home." For most teams, CEOs were the first ones to make a return to the office purely for their own sanity. A nice ancillary benefit was seeing their supporting team members start to trickle in soon after.

  • Social butterflies come next. The first wave of folks to join CEOs back in the office were the social butterflies - the natural extroverts who clearly get their energy from interacting with others. They were also joined by team members who had challenging WFH environments - e.g. an apartment full of roommates or low speed internet that spelled death for video sales calls. The important point here is that CEOs broke the seal, giving other folks the OK to do the same.

  • Then others trickle in. Once remaining team members see their colleagues joining video calls from the office, many of them start to make an appearance too. The reasons are varied - wanting to reclaim camaraderie, not wanting to be left out of the incidental conversations and decision making, etc.

Onboard in person…

  • Company culture is more important than ever. In our recent Technical Recruiting Lab, the talent acquisition leaders serving as mentors agreed that the pandemic has made company culture the most important competitive differentiator for recruiting & retaining top talent. The candidate experience is the same series of Zoom interviews across the board, so founders need to wow with company vision, mission, and values that resonate.

  • Retention starts with onboarding. We've seen teams use employee onboarding as an opportunity to get folks together in person again. Onboarding in person makes new hires more comfortable communicating with other members of the team and, in turn, helps them get up to speed faster and become the power contributor you need. Obviously a great way to build trust and camaraderie as well.

  • Set expectations for office presence. Onboarding is also the right time to set expectations around office presence. Regardless of what your expectations are for your team (no required presence, 1-3 days a week, etc), the important thing is to state those expectations explicitly. Your team doesn't want to be unsure of whether they're doing the right thing or disappointing leaders of the company.

Come together for strategic planning…

  • It just works better in person. Long before the pandemic, we have facilitated strategic planning sessions for teams using an objective and key result (OKR) framework. We've done it in person, in hybrid settings with some folks in the room and others joining through video, and with fully remote teams. Plain and simple, strategic planning works better with your full team in the room. Those 1-2 days are too important to your team's longterm success to not do it right.

  • Planning is democratic. Strategic planning is also meant to be democratic. When every member of the team contributes to goal setting, everyone is more bought into those goals and follows through on the execution. When folks are in the same room together, it's easier to speak up. You can read everyone's body language, shyer members of the team can't hide in the cluttered gallery view on Zoom, etc.
  • Pair it with a social outing. Strategic planning is exhausting. End your one or two day session with dinner, drinks, or whatever your team likes to do to unwind and have some fun. This a great opportunity to get some bonding in and remind everyone how great it is to come together.  

    Looking for a new home base for your team coming out of 12+ months of isolation? Check out our membership options at Venture Lane, Boston's leading startup hub for B2B tech!