Notes from the office (on returning to work)

I’m returning to the office on a more permanent basis following a summer break. Other than thoughts about how I might be able to maintain my new favourite habit of working in my slippers without creating too much of a stir, I’m thinking about what it means to show up as a leader in what continues to be a time of uncertainty for so many.

We are confronting the reality of leaving the house to reintegrate a far different work dynamic than we have been in for the last 18+ months.  Where the collective has been a virtual reality for so long, it will soon become a physical one. As leaders, this creates significant challenge…

For those of us welcoming back our teams, most likely in new configurations around space and time, and with new work habits, I believe that we each need to create a checklist to ensure that we are tuned in to a few of the most important elements to make this return a success.

For example, how are we planning to change the way we meet? After 16 months of nearly nonstop meetings on teams, I am more than ready to ask the question of how I bring people together both online and in presence in ways infused with purpose and that are respectful of the time and needs of every member. The questions I’m asking myself include: What needs to change? What should be preserved?

Team at office

Another area of thought for me concerns the diversity of attitudes and apprehensions of people returning to the office. How do I balance what is good for each individual with what is good for the group?

How can I lean into the values we share as a team to help everyone to find their place and their purpose going forward?

More personally, I am thinking about what I have learned as a manager and a leader over this period that I don’t want to let go of. And, how can I mobilize my teams to contribute to making the office a better place than it was when we left it?

The global situation appears far from resolved and, like many, I don’t think we will ever return to a pre-COVID experience at work. I do believe however, that there are opportunities for both superficial and for profound change. It is up to us to seize them.

If you have any thoughts on the above, we would love to hear from you.


Julie Perrin-Halot,

Associate Dean / Director of Quality and Strategic Management (GEM, France)

QED Associate (Accreditation and Leadership)