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Return-to-Office Playbook

Create and roll out a return-to-office policy that balances employee and organizational needs.

  • Organizations that mandate RTO often fail to do their due diligence with identifying and communicating a rationale for RTO, leading to employee backlash and numerous negative consequences for the organization (e.g. decreased engagement).
  • In addition, RTO mandates are often a one-size-fits-all approach that lacks flexibility and fails to consider unique employee needs and challenges, leading to rising frustration among employees.

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Critical Insight

Despite the popularity of work-from-home among employees, organizations and employees recognize the benefits of occasionally working from the office. The key to implementing a successful RTO policy is understanding organizational and employee needs and rolling out a policy that is intentionally flexible.

Impact and Result

  • Gather and assess organizational and employee data to identify valid reasons for returning employees to the office.
  • Create and roll out a flexible RTO policy that balances organizational and employee needs.
  • Support employees through the challenges of returning to the office by identifying feasible supports for the organization.

Return-to-Office Playbook Research & Tools

2. Create the RTO policy

Assess factors that impact the RTO and draft the policy.

Workshop: Return-to-Office Playbook

Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Conduct Focus Groups

The Purpose

Conduct focus groups to gather insights from senior and people leaders to inform the RTO rationale.

Key Benefits Achieved

Insights gathered to understand how RTO supports strategic objectives of the organization.




McLean & Company facilitators conduct up to five 1-hour focus groups with senior and people leaders. The maximum number of focus group participants is eight.

  • Focus group feedback

Module 2: Analyze Focus Groups

The Purpose

Conduct in-depth analysis of the focus group findings.

Key Benefits Achieved

Focus group insights analyzed to inform the rationale for RTO.




McLean & Company facilitators independently analyze results of focus groups.

  • Focus group feedback analyzed and categorized

Module 3: Review Data Analysis and Assess RTO Logistics

The Purpose

  • Establish the rationale for RTO using focus group insights, survey data, and strategic documents.
  • Determine what departments/teams will be excluded from RTO.
  • Identify necessary modifications to office space to support RTO.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • RTO rationale drafted.
  • RTO exclusions determined.
  • Office space modifications identified.




Review insights from analysis of strategic documents, focus groups, and survey data to identify and draft the RTO rationale.


Identify the roles, teams, or departments that will be excluded from the RTO policy.

  • Identified rationale for RTO and decided on roles, teams, or departments that will be excluded from RTO.

Discuss logistics of the office to identify capacity constraints and required modifications.

Module 4: Draft and Compile Key Sections of the RTO Policy

The Purpose

Compile key sections of the RTO policy including employee supports, exemptions, and guiding principles.

Key Benefits Achieved

RTO policy drafted.




Create a list of potential supports to offer employees.

  • Identified employee supports and exemptions.

Identify employee exemptions.


Draft the RTO policy’s guiding principles.


Compile key sections of the RTO policy.

  • Draft of key sections of RTO policy.

Module 5: Create an Action Plan for Rollout and Tools for People Leaders

The Purpose

  • Create an action and communication to roll out the RTO policy.
  • Identify and compile tools to support people leaders through RTO.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Action and communication plans created.
  • Tools compiled to support people leaders through RTO.




Create an action plan to roll out the RTO policy.

  • Action plan

Create a communication plan to share the RTO policy with people leaders and employees.

  • Communication

Identify and draft the tools required to support people leaders with implementing the RTO policy.

  • Tools to support people leaders
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About McLean & Company

McLean & Company is an HR research and advisory firm providing practical solutions to human resources challenges via executable research, tools, diagnostics, and advisory services that have a clear and measurable impact on your business.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your HR problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

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Get the help you need in this 3-phase advisory process. You'll receive 8 touchpoints with our researchers, all included in your membership.

Guided Implementation 1: Assess organizational and employee needs
  • Call 1: Discuss data collection and assessment plan.
  • Call 2: Review insights from data collection.
  • Call 3: Draft a rationale for RTO.

Guided Implementation 2: Create the RTO policy
  • Call 1: Discuss the organization’s office space logistics.
  • Call 2: Formulate guiding principles.
  • Call 3: Draft the RTO policy.

Guided Implementation 3: Roll out the RTO policy
  • Call 1: Create an action plan to roll out the RTO policy.
  • Call 2: Develop a communication plan.


  • Karey Reilly, Director, Talent Management, Calgary Board of Education
  • Sarah Hernandez-Silva, Manager, Talent, Bow Valley College
  • 2 anonymous contributors