In our last article we pointed out how church leaders need to intentionally prepare for staff to return to the office once COVID-19 restrictions are eased. We observed that one of the most important questions leaders will have to address is How do we get staff to want to work on-site?
All signs point to employees returning to a “hybrid” work environment where they have the flexibility to spend some of their week in the office and some of it working from home. The key then for church leaders will be to intentionally create new norms that help employees work differently when they are in the office than they do at home and to define the benefits of this new arrangement. The Gallup Organization suggests leaders consider four key advantages of working on-site, each beginning with the letter “C.”
Shape Your Onsite Work Advantages Around These Four C’s
After working remotely for the past year, employees can easily make compelling logistical arguments to continue working from home. Leaders must acknowledge that the huge upside of hybrid work is that it enhances flexibility and autonomy. But, the inherent challenge is these benefits can also breed unclear expectations, coordination difficulties, confusion and inequality. Therefore, church leaders will need to be intentional about why and how staff spend their time on-site versus at home. Below are the four C’s advocated by Gallup that address the opportunities, challenges, and action steps that leaders should consider as they plan for working in a post-COVID environment.
The opportunity: Likely the biggest change for church staff who started working remotely full time in 2020 was the sharp decrease in hours spent engaging socially with colleagues. We are social creatures and rely on positive relationships with others for encouragement, development and support. On-site office work offers an environment rich with options for interpersonal interaction, and that socialization is likely what your staff are needing most right now.
The challenge: Sustaining a culture of social interaction and connection can be especially difficult in the world of increased hybrid work. It requires more intentionality on the part of Supervisors to ensure that the office culture fosters relationship-building. Supervisors should consider that staff need connection with key church leaders, other team members, cross-departmental teams and, of course, their close friends at work. Church leaders should make a point to help staff maximize relational engagement on the days they spend in the office.
- Foster connection by providing opportunities during staff meetings for staff to engage, share and discuss work as well as topics unrelated to church.
- Consider creative ways to increase the number and type of Supervisor-Employee one-on-one conversations.
- Encourage staff to communicate with each other about their hybrid schedules and to prioritize at least one day a week where everyone is on-site.
- Be intentional about eating lunch and taking breaks together.
- Plan social events on-site to encourage people to be in the office and engage with colleagues.
The opportunity: Very few church jobs today exist in a silo, and staff and the church benefit from the fruits of collaboration. For many church staffs, the prolonged period of remote work shed light on the challenges of virtual-only collaboration. Collaborating at work allows teams and departments to capitalize on the strengths and contributions of each person in a way that results in better performance and higher levels of productivity. Returning to the office will improve teamwork and efficiency especially in situations that are highly interdependent or require intensive interaction and communication. Also, when working collaboratively in person, there is visibility around each person’s contribution that builds confidence in each other and provides a measure of accountability that doesn’t take place when working remotely.
The challenge: Several potential issues emerge for hybrid teams. Employees working remotely will be “out of sight” and could be forgotten about during important times of collaboration. This accidental neglect may create problems with inclusivity and equity. Remote workers may find themselves missing key opportunities for participation and development. Leaders must create new procedures that ensure remote workers are intentionally brought into important moments of collaboration.
- Schedule with intentionality by considering which tasks would benefit from team collaboration and interdependent work while the entire team is on-site.
- Learn to use new collaboration technology platforms and techniques together as a team.
- Intentionally involve remote members in the discussion and decision-making when in collaborative meetings.
- Review staff development and mentorship practices to ensure remote workers receive similar levels of coaching and opportunities for development.
The opportunity: Creativity and innovation drive continual improvement and needed change. Creativity in the church office often arises from both spontaneous and planned collaboration. Remote work and social distancing have made spontaneous collaborative creativity — found in impromptu hallway conversations, lunches and coffee breaks — difficult, and in some churches obsolete. Creativity resulting from planned collaboration has also been challenging to cultivate while working remotely. On-site meetings make it easier to brainstorm ideas onto whiteboards or break into subgroups to plan. Returning to the office fuels both spontaneous creative moments and intentional and planned creative collaboration.
The challenge: In a hybrid work environment, creativity must be approached differently so that the creative contributions of remote workers aren’t lost due to a lack of opportunity to voice their ideas. Intentional and strategic opportunities to gather ideas from those who are off-site can be used to replace spontaneous brainstorming conversations.
- Schedule team creative and brainstorming meetings on a day when everyone is onsite, or be sure to invite remote workers to join virtually.
- Rethink your innovation times and spaces. Do they include videoconferencing and virtual collaboration tools so remote workers aren’t left out?
- Provide education and techniques for sparking creativity.
The opportunity: A church’s work culture is a reflection of “how we do things around here.” Office culture creates a shared experience for staff that is reflected in their collective values and behaviors. By bringing people back into the office employees can more intimately experience the environment, messaging, values and practices of the culture. Being together, in person, strengthens “how we do things around here” and helps staff feel like they’re part of something important and bigger than themselves.
The challenge: A work culture forms and solidifies when staff are aligned on what they stand for, their mission, and how they work together. This sense of unity can be a challenge for hybrid work teams when individuals are on different schedules and have different expectations and experiences.
- Work with staff to make a list of attributes that describe your church work culture.
- Discuss how remote work affects your culture. What are the opportunities and challenges presented by spending at least part of your week on-site?
- Define what behaviors and outcomes you expect from one another. How can you be more intentional about how you spend your time in the office versus at home?
If your church wants staff back on-site, leaders should engage in conversations about the transition and explain the advantages to be gained framed around the four C’s. By following the framework of the four C’s, church leaders can increase the value of their church workplace culture and help each employee find what works best for them.
Posted on June 29, 2021