The workforce today looks very different than it did a decade ago. The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in the location where people perform their jobs. In 2020, the number of remote workers jumped quickly from 5% to 60% in a matter of months. The time has come for companies to start reopening their office spaces and have employees return to the office. Despite the best efforts of management, nearly 30 percent of the workforce still works remotely (either full time or on a hybrid schedule).
Employees and employers seem to be locked into a power struggle when it comes to returning to the office. The majority of Americans (68%) prefer to remain remote employees claiming that remote work allows them to be more productive and have a better work-life balance. Employers on the other hand believe that in-person work is more conducive to social interaction and collaboration. Here are 6 strategies businesses can use to gently encourage their employees to return to the office.
1. Ease Employees Back into the Office
Jumping from fully remote to a full-time office environment will likely result in a strong negative reaction. Employers need to understand that employees have rearranged their whole lives around accommodating remote work. Their daily routines and schedules for childcare and running errands will need to be changed.
It’s highly recommended that companies start slowly to allow their employees to adjust their schedules and home lives. The reality is that pushing too aggressively could backfire. There are still plenty of companies that offer some form of remote or hybrid work. The last thing you want is for employees to start leaving for companies that offer the flexibility they want.
Start with plenty of advanced notice around return dates and set clear expectations on how the new office schedule will work. Companies might want to move slowly by requiring just one or two days a week in the office and increase the frequency over several months.
There is no arguing that social interaction is one of the major benefits of being in the same physical space during the workday. For this reason, companies should really emphasize and focus on promoting these types of interactions and activities. After all, what’s the point in returning to the office only to sit quietly in your cubicle on conference calls?
The company should make an effort to plan social events, collaboration sessions, and in-person mentoring and coaching to draw employees back to the office space. Even enhancing common break or lunch areas can boost the social engagement of being back in the office.
In addition to social interaction, there are other perks and benefits that employers can offer to make office work more comparable to remote working. These perks will vary depending on the demographics of your workforce but could include things like providing snacks and meals, pet-friendly offices (we all know someone who adopted a pet during the pandemic), social spaces (game rooms, relaxation spaces, etc.), paid time off for volunteering, on-site childcare or fitness areas.
Let’s face it, employees recognize that there is a cost with commuting to an office versus working from home. Things like fuel, car maintenance, work clothes, dry cleaning, and packing lunches or eating out cut deeply into an employee’s take home pay. With rising inflation, many employers used remote work as justification to limit wage increases. The reality is that some companies may need to financially incentivize employees to help them cover these additional costs if they want them to return.
Every employee has a unique role and may have different needs when it comes to the work environment. It may not be necessary for everyone to be in the same physical location all the time. Instead, carefully consider the needs of each employee or group of employees to decide what makes sense.
You might find that certain groups must be in the office every day, while others can be successful on a hybrid schedule. For example, the engineering team may benefit from in-person collaboration sessions when designing a new product, but the sales team who only interact with outside customers don’t need to be in the office to perform their duties.
It’s highly likely that many companies will find middle ground and embrace a hybrid work arrangement. This can provide the best of both worlds; social interactions of being in an office space together on some days, but also the flexibility and freedom to work remotely on others.
Companies that take this approach may need to reimagine their office space. It might not make sense to continue to pay for the high cost of overhead for large traditional office spaces. This might create the opportunity to downsize or move their team into a shared coworking office space.
Coworking office spaces could provide the ideal environment by providing a professional office where employees can drop in or work on a rotating schedule. This can also help reduce the concerns with long commute times since coworking spaces can be selected in areas that are central to your teams’ homes.
If you are looking for an office space for your returning team, look no further than Lakeside Workspaces. Our high-quality workspaces can complement or supplement traditional office spaces while providing everything you need including technology, shared amenities and conference rooms. The best part is that there is little risk with affordable and short-term lease agreements. Contact our team today to see how Lakeside Workspaces can support your return to work efforts.