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How To Prepare For Staff To Return To Work In the Church Office

After over a year of layoffs, cut backs, remote working, Zoom staff meetings, and worrying about employee wellbeing, asking church staff to return to work in the office can feel like yet another challenge for church leaders to overcome. But, it can also be viewed as an opportunity…an opportunity to redefine the benefits of your onsite workplace culture.

First Things First

Before bringing employees back to the office, church leaders need to address three key questions:

  • How can we bring people back safely?
    • Have we established policies, procedures and protocols for everything — group interactions, cleaning, quarantine after travel, sick leave policies, etc.?
  • What is our hybrid work strategy?
    • Who will stay remote? Who will be back on-site full time? And who will adopt a hybrid schedule — working remotely on some days, and in the office on the others?

Once these foundational questions have been answered you can address the all-important question of “why” staff should return to the office:

  • How do we get people to want to work on-site? What does our workplace offer that enhances the employee satisfaction, experience, effectiveness, and efficiency? In other words, what value does working onsite offer the employee?

Simply pointing to “job requirements” as the primary reason employees must return to the office will not work anymore. Many people who never worked from home before 2020 had to quickly figure out how to do so with little warning or preparation — and they’ve made it work. So, citing demands of the role as the reason why staff must now adjust again and come back to the office will ring inauthentic. Instead, church leaders must define, describe, and create a compelling work environment that gives staff a reason to return to the office and sells them on the benefits of being together in a shared physical space.

Supervisors bring these benefits to life by talking with their team members about what returning to work will look like for each individual and the team or department as a whole. These conversations require Supervisors to acknowledge the difficulties faced and contributions made over the past year while being tailoring each conversation to the individual’s situation and responsibilities. For these conversations to be effective Supervisors need to:

Acknowledge the uniqueness of each employee’s situation: This means acknowledging the challenges of the past year of work and thanking them for their contributions. For many, this has meant personal and family sacrifice and a blurring of the lines between home, work, and church life.

Be real: Make sure your conversations are authentic, genuine and grounded in tangible advantages of working on-site. Don’t tout the benefits of coming to the church office unless you are confident that they actually exist.

Customize and individualize: Ask employees what they liked most and least about working remotely. Ask them why they enjoyed being in the office pre-pandemic. Review each employee’s unique job responsibilities, giftedness and life circumstances. Discuss ways to customize and individualize their work and job duties moving forward. Making a point to individualize job duties and expectations allows staff to feel understood and acknowledged.

In our next article we will suggest a specific framework for determining and defining the value and benefits for returning to work in the church office.


Posted on June 22, 2021

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5