By nature, organizational development professionals wear many hats. In a post-COVID-19 environment, these hats are likely to either fit slightly differently or be used differently given the uncertain immediate future. Here are four key ways you and your team are likely to be asked to fill these roles if your company is considering returning to the office (whatever that looks like you).

Alternative opening up: Going back to work may not necessarily seem like a job to you as an organizational development professional, but there are four key roles that you and your OD team should play during these conversations with your organization. In a post-COVID-19 environment, your ability to wear many different hats and balance competing priorities will help everyone navigate our uncertain immediate future.

Head of Change Management

This may sound obvious, but it’s worth remembering. We’re not going back to anything. Nothing will look like it was before, so just leave it. We move forward and create something new.

The good news is that you are thriving here. You have managed change throughout your career. For some, you may return to the same physical room, but you may have employees who have moved to other states or have chosen not to return to the office, so now you have more remote workers. Some of you may be moving to a smaller room because you find that your people prefer to work from home more often. What new guidelines do you need?

Who will your change champions be? How will you deal with those who are uncomfortable with the shift? If you identify this move back to the office as a change management initiative rather than just the next step in a COVID-19, you and your company can be successful right from the start.


Neither of us has seen a global pandemic before, so we’ll be newbies to how we feel about it. Sure, we’ll be experts on some aspects (luckily, most of us have now figured out how to unmute). But we want clear expectations when things change, both in the world and in our organizations.

Changing new ways of working at such fluctuating times isn’t something you update in your employee manual or email and just expect people to pick it up. You want clear instructions and training on how to do this. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but your reps will appreciate a session (or two) with clear learning objectives, a measure of their understanding, and knowing where to brush up on the information.


Do you know the pit of your stomach when you see a statistic with no sources? Or the nerdy little dance your heart does when you see a well-organized table? That’s because you understand the meaning of data – define success, measure progress, and adjust it so you have the right data to make informed decisions.

When your company is thinking about how to use physical space and collaborate in person and virtual, asking questions that will give you the answers you need is a crucial skill. The OD person never really takes their moderator hat off, so helping institutions, legal, senior management, and senior management teams holistically think about the employee experience and the questions they should be asked is invaluable.

Holistic coach

Even if your employees return to the office and do the same tasks, we are not “back to normal”. we all went through a pandemic that paralyzed the world for the first time in our lives. This changes us fundamentally on a human level. We all lost something. Whether it was a loved one, the way you think about your own health, a belief in the way things work, or something you took for granted or a routine, we have all experienced losses. And the amount of loss will be different for each of your people. The effects of what just happened are far from being fully understood.

The most important role you can play is helping leaders in your organization remember the whole person as we find our way forward. Remind your leaders that they are human too, which means that they have experienced this too and have a right to their feelings as well. Starting from a place of curiosity rather than assumption will be a long way to go as we all settle into our new routines, whatever they look like. Asking questions about how people are doing, what has changed for them, what they have experienced in the past year – all of these things will help teams get along and move forward together.

You can also provide resources for your employees to nurture conversation and support, including your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the mental health coverage offered by your insurance company, or links to Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.