Help! My team doesn’t want to return to the office.

Why finding healthy tension between FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY matters now more than ever.

 

It seems like every week – sometimes every day – I talk to a different manager with the same dilemma. They are relieved to see a reduction in COVID restrictions and excited to get their team back to the office. The problem is, their employees aren’t nearly as excited about this as they are. The convenience of working from home and the elimination of the commute is something the team is not eager to give up.

 

Regardless of whether returning to the way things were before COVID makes sense for your organization or not, use this challenge as a great way to remind your team of a critical tension that should guide what your new reality looks like – Freedom vs. Responsibility.

 

Here are the positive results of a new normal that embraces freedom:

  • Staff stay motivated and engaged
  • Work is completed in unique and creative ways
  • Shared ownership increases

 

Here are the negative results that will be experienced if the new normal over-focuses on freedom to the neglect of responsibility:

  • Staff become isolated and disconnected
  • Negative impact on others is ignored
  • Deadlines are missed and balls are dropped

 

Here are the positive results of a new normal that embraces responsibility:

  • Employees over-communicate where they are and what they’re working on
  • Staff are deliberately collaborative when making decisions
  • Team members are accountable for their commitments

 

Here are the negative results that will be experienced if the new normal over-focuses on responsibility to the neglect of freedom:

  • Staff become frustrated by inflexibility and pointless rules
  • Creativity and engagement go down
  • Employees’ lack of authority decreases their ownership

 

Once your team understands this tension, the next step is to assess how well you’re currently managing it. What quadrant is your team spending the most time in these days? Ultimately, you want to make sure your “back to work” strategy helps you stay – or move into – quadrant 4.

 

Freedom Accountability Teams that Work 1

 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for organizations to navigate their post-COVID reality. It will be unique for all of us. When determining what this should look like for you, strive for workplace policies and practices that will allow your team to be stronger than ever. And remember that your team will only experience the positive results of both freedom AND responsibility when they learn to hold values in healthy tension. This is not a tension that will be managed by chance, it must be managed by choice!

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BONUS – Looking for a great example of Freedom AND Responsibility in action? Check out what this looks like at Netflix.

 

Tim Arnold

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