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Welcome to the second half of 2021. I’ve heard from many financial professionals that they felt their team—regardless of size—did a seamless job transitioning to socially-distanced work. But others don’t feel their team is nearly as productive without physically being together. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, my guess is that each of you are asking the same question, “How do I get my team back to how it used to be?”

Going back to the office will likely be trickier than going remote was. I liken it to “putting the toothpaste back into the tube.” If you’ve ever squeezed too hard and tried to coax it back inside, you know it can be frustrating trying to undo what’s already been done. Similarly, now that your team has experienced the perks of working remotely, readjusting to the work environment they used to know may not be that simple.


If You Assume That Things Will Snap Back to Normal, You Could Be in for a Rude Awakening

Most teams I’ve talked with have worked especially hard over the past 18 months, putting in more hours at home than they did pre-pandemic. But they also enjoyed being home, spending more time with family, and having greater flexibility in their schedule. Ending that too abruptly could be a real morale buster. So before you do that, ponder the question of what work should look like in our new normal.


The Answer to the “What Should Work Look Like?” Question Is…

It depends. That’s the best answer I can give. It may be the best that anyone can give in the near term. It will likely depend on your answers to the questions below:

  • What would you lose if you or your team/organization/department, etc. worked remotely indefinitely?
  • What would you gain if you were back together, like in pre-pandemic days?
  • Is there a blended model you could implement that provides flexibility for your and your team members, bolsters a strong work culture, and ultimately retains talent?
  • If you’re against remote work going forward, ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Is it because you’ve always done the work in-person? Is it a requirement, or is it a philosophical preference?
  • What adjustments to your physical office space and work space are necessary for working in-person again, and to be productive, safe, and comfortable?
  • Do you know why some team members are either yearning to return to the office in-person while others are begging to keep working remotely? Are their motivations economical, physical, social, familial, etc.? What positive life changes did your team members experience over the past year and a half that might be causing their reluctance to return to office full time?

Did they:

  • Enjoy greater flexibility?
  • Improve their work-life balance?
  • Move farther away, or out-of-state?
  • Move into a fixer-upper home?
  • Have a child or adopt a pet?
  • Create a new lifestyle or routine that they want to maintain?
  • Become a caregiver for a parent or grandparent?
  • Sell a car (or two) and have limited transportation?
  • Lose a family member to COVID-19 (or even a non-COVID-19 cause) and are still grieving?

This list is most likely just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the mindsets that you and your team members may have.

Although the Path Won’t Be Straight, Simple, or Easy, It’s Absolutely Possible

Start talking about it. Create a structured, yet flexible plan, since we don’t have all the answers yet. Consider a balanced solution that offers a combination of remote and in-person work going forward. That balance will depend on each team, firm, organization, roles, etc. The level of soul-searching, conversation, and reflection will certainly increase in the coming months as we ponder the path forward. Start with yourself. What are your thoughts, feelings, and fears as you look toward the remainder of this year? Then, talk with your team. What are their thoughts?

Consider performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your team to determine a solution that supports the growth of the business as much as possible. Oftentimes this exercise can help you approach the process objectively and help to streamline decisions based upon fact.

For example, your SWOT analysis may show that you have an opportunity to embrace technology platforms more consistently, thereby allowing you to prospect in a broader geography, as well as deliver service to existing clients seamlessly. That assessment may, in turn, help you see that being physically near your team members doesn’t impact your current client experience or the potential growth of your practice. Let the facts guide the plan as opposed to allowing emotion and tradition to be the driver.


In My Travels, I See Two Types of Teams

The first type is transitioning back to their office without much planning. They’re just hoping things will go back to normal the way things were before the pandemic. The second type is doing more planning. They’re checking in with their people to understand how they’re feeling about a return to the office.

I think the second group may have a smoother transition and their teams will appreciate their thoughtfulness.

About The Author
Julie L. Genjac

Julie Genjac is a Managing Director, Strategic Markets for Hartford Funds. She works with financial professionals in a practice management capacity, including engaging and educating them and their clients about current and emerging opportunities in the financial- services marketplace. These range from areas such as retirement-income planning, investment planning, and charitable giving, to anticipating and preparing for long-term demographic and lifestyle changes.

Next Steps

1 Take a moment to self-reflect on the past year and a half
  • How has your life, routine, and practice changed?
  • How has it remained the same?
2 Perform a SWOT analysis
3 Have conversations with each team member about how they’re feeling about today as well as the future, using the SWOT analysis as a backdrop


You also might enjoy: How to Continue Your Education in Retirement (Without Spending a Fortune) >


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This article is based off of our popular Why Many Teams Struggle module. Click here to access additional content to share.

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