return to a traditional office workspace

Focus on the Workplace: Returning to a Traditional Office

Although many jobs may remain remote, certain jobs will eventually return to a traditional office workspace environment. How will this affect the many employees that will be returning to the workforce? According to the American Psychological Association, returning to work will be challenging for both businesses and employees.

It would be conceivable to assume that many of the workers would enjoy returning to the workforce and being surrounded by colleagues. Regaining social interaction and a sense of familiar surroundings may improve the employee’s psychological health.

Some employees will be apprehensive. The “traditional” workplace will most likely not be organized in the same manner. This alone can cause stress on the individual since they may not adjust to change well.

Employees that have been accustomed to working their own schedule may also have difficulty adapting to a structured work routine. Additionally, there will be new rules and regulations put in place that the employee will be expected to follow. Other concerns may surface, such as how the changes can affect the employee’s health and well-being, getting back to a routine, or personal issues outside the workplace due to the pandemic.


Advance Preparation

Organizations should prepare in advance for these concerns and provide guidance, coaching, and special programs to allow employees to adjust to returning to the workplace. Even with a structured plan of action in place, some businesses may need assistance in implementing the measures.

One consideration would be to bring in an outside party that is skilled in solving complex problems in the workplace. Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, also known as I-O Psychologists, are trained professionals that study the science of human behavior in the workplace and develop methods to assist in organizational and employee improvement.

I-O Psychologists assist leaders in developing effective management skills and methods to strengthen employee engagement. They can assist in helping employees adjust to new work protocols and mediate issues with work-life balance.

Some large companies have an in-house I-O Psychologist to assist in developing ongoing organizational development processes and training programs for the organization. They work with human resources and are familiar with the specific needs of the organization.

In this situation, the I-O psychologist can work directly with HR, managers, and the employees in developing these training plans. The training program may assist in formulating a process for a well-organized transition into the “new work environment.”

If it is a smaller company or large organization that is seeking to improve a single department, it may be best for the organization to hire an outside I/O Consultant to assist in the organizational development process.

I-O Psychologists have several methods of assessing employees and leaders to determine the needs of the organization.

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Formulate a Transition Plan

The first step in formulating a plan to transition employees into the new workspace would be to learn about the organization and its workers. Each workplace is unique and is a mixture of different personalities and cultures. One method of approaching the situation is to perform assessments that would provide the organization with the current situation in the workplace.

Several assessments are available to the consultant. Many are proprietary, while others can be created by an experienced I-O psychologist depending on the particular needs of the department. The assessments can measure constructs such as personality, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and emotional intelligence.

Once the analysis is performed, an intervention can be designed to develop a strategy in dealing with the employees’ post-pandemic adjustment.

Interventions can be in the form of coaching, consulting, or specific training for the employees and leaders. The I-O professional can approach the situation through a coaching process.  Through interviews, devise a plan to bring the organization closer together and try to resolve issues that occur throughout the transition.

In this sense, the employees will be able to work as a team together in adjusting to the workplace and working toward congruency among the employees.

Job satisfaction has been shown to have a significant relationship with other powerful outcomes in the workplace for both the employee and the organization.



In summary, transitioning workers to the workplace after COVID-19 will be a challenge to businesses. An I-O psychologist can assess the workplace to develop a plan that can ensure that is aligned with the specific needs of the organization. The hopeful result is a healthy work environment that encourages job satisfaction, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.

This can assist with a smoother transition back to the office environment. An I-O psychologist is also effective for other situations that affect the workplace.

Many organizations are not aware of the benefits associated with the process of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and how it can be used to help in enhancing the workforce.

Cynthia Kelly

Dr. Cynthia Kelly assists organizations and employees in attaining their goals in the workplace. She coaches/consults executives in leadership skills and assists businesses in assessment, training, talent management, and personnel selection. She also works to assist job seekers in finding executive-level positions, specializing in healthcare but has also worked in technology, engineering, and business. Cynthia has an MBA degree with a concentration in Healthcare Administration as well as her PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. If you are interested in learning more about Industrial-Organizational Psychology and finding out how the practice can assist your business, contact Dr. Cynthia Kelly with Genesis Professional Services in Atlanta