Over the past year, life has returned to some sense of ‘normality’ post-pandemic, yet many people continue to work remotely.
Air B&B recently announced a ‘completely remote’ work policy, even offering the opportunity to spend 90 days of the year working abroad. But not everyone wants their teams to continue working remotely, relying on video meetings to be productive. Similarly, according to a Work From Home survey by Gensler, only 12% of workers want to continue working from home full time.
What happens, however, when employees are reluctant to return to the office?
What to do if your team doesn’t want to go back to the office
The first thing to do if your team is reluctant to head back to the office is to find out why. Have one on one conversations with your teams to find the solutions.
What you assume to be the reason may be completely wrong. People may have safety concerns, some may resent the commute, they could want to return to the office but in a more flexible capacity, they might want to save financially on their commute and lunches or they may just not want to wear a suit everyday!
There could be simple solutions. Whether it’s financial support for the commute, adjusting dress codes, coming up with a hybrid schedule, addressing health concerns or providing lunches twice a week. There are numerous ways to encourage people back into the workplace – you may just need to be creative!
Google, for example, partnered with Unagi to provide electric scooters for employees returning to the office 3 days a week. PWC on the other hand gave its 22,000 UK staff a £1000 bonus to help with adjusting to returning to the office and agreed on a flexible work model called ‘The Deal’.
Once you have the answers as to why people may not want to return – you can find ways of easing a transition and enhancing employee satisfaction in the process.
Here are 6 ways you can inspire your employees back to face-to-face work:
6 ways to inspire your reluctant employees to return to the office
1) Explain the WHY: Connection, Collaboration and Creativity
Ultimately, some work is just better done face-to-face. The best ideas come from chatting over a coffee in the morning or brainstorming after hearing from someone from a completely different industry.
Human connection, collaboration and sparking creativity are hard to achieve through a screen.
If you explain why your business benefits from working collaboratively in the same room, and the importance of it, employees are much more likely to buy in.
Demonstrate why working face-to-face is an advantage, not just for the organisation, but for the people and individuals within it. You may have other reasons having people in the office benefits your business – whatever they are, communicate them.
2) Use workplace experiences to attract your employees back to the office
According to the Gensler survey, the biggest elements people miss from working in the office are social interaction and impromptu face-to-face meetings. The things you can’t achieve working remotely or from home.
There is a wide range of experiences you could use to make working in the office appealing, even fun:
- Brainstorming breakfasts
- Old-school after work drinks or happy hours
- Guest speakers or company-wide training sessions on-site
- Catered lunches with a ban on work-related conversation
- Bike repair or maintenance workshops for those that cycle into work
- ‘Ask the CEO’ events – questions or discussions with the leadership teams in an open setting
- Networking events with other companies or organisations
- Team-building cooking classes with the option to take the leftovers home for the family
To make these experiences particularly successful, be sure to mix up when they are and how regularly they happen. For example, have a team lunch once a week but company-wide training once a quarter.
3) Provide on-site support for wellbeing
If you’re trying to encourage employees back to the workplace it’s vital to take their wellbeing and concerns into account. Over the pandemic, many employees have become much more astute when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.
The office can be somewhere that works with wellbeing rather than being seen as something that acts against it.
To support wellbeing and mental health you could:
- Provide coaching or mentoring on-site
- Choose an office with quiet spaces for reflection
- Provide on-site opportunities for professional development
- Offer morning meditation or yoga sessions
- Animal therapy – Paws in Work bring puppies to your office providing a serotonin boost for your team and valuable socialisation for the puppies!
4) Offer options (within reason!)
It may not be necessary for every employee to be in the office every day. They may prefer a hybrid model of working, mixing 3 or 4 days in the office and the rest of the time remotely. Certain departments may not need to be face-to-face as much as others.
According to the Future of Work Study 2021 by Accenture, a whopping 83% of the 9000 workers asked said a hybrid model would be optimal.
Find out what your workforce needs and wants and come up with a compromise. Make the days in the office a novelty and a welcome relief rather than days to dread. Hybrid working can offer the perfect compromise making all parties happy.
Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, argued that managers should determine the working from home (WFH) days. His research found that having teams on-site at the same time increases employee satisfaction, reduces bias and improves promotion equity and diversity.
5) Provide a space they want to work in
There are some things an office space provides that working from home or in a café doesn’t, or can’t. If your old office wasn’t providing the optimum office experience, find one that does.
Offices are designed for people to work in and the best offices are designed with wellbeing in the workplace in mind. Find an office that offers everything from ergonomically designed furniture to look after your body and bright open spaces and plants to look after your mind.
Find an office that is clean, spacious, that provides good coffee, has access to healthy food options and offers quiet thinking spaces (not always achievable at home!). Provide an office that offers discounts on gyms or has on-site yoga classes, has fast internet and a reliable support team for if anything goes wrong.
Rather than a private office maybe try a shared workplace with further opportunities for collaboration and networking.
If you need access to quiet spaces, conference rooms, communal areas or even a podcast studio – make sure you’re in a workspace that suits your business needs and the needs of your employees.
If some employees have health or safety concerns, explain the safety measures being taken, Covid-19 policies or explore other factors that could help ease their minds. For example, you could organise extra cleaning of work stations, better ventilation or access to touchless technology.
Whatever amenities are needed to make the job more enjoyable and fruitful for everyone – businesses, employees and leaders alike – find an office that has them.
6) Lead by example
There’s no point trying to encourage employees back to the office if you’re not going to be there yourself. Managers, executives and leaders within the organisation should be present. Again, not necessarily all of the time but at least in a hybrid capacity.
If you want your teams and colleagues to return to the office, create a sense of community and work environment people won’t want to say no to.
What not to do if your employees don’t want to return to the office
Don’t Force People to Come Back to the Office Full Time
The key thing is not to make coming back to the office full time compulsory. The world is much more set up for flexible or hybrid ways of working so take advantage. Shared workspaces provide the perfect hybrid workplace for people and businesses without crippling contracts.
The harder part is on leadership and managers and how they best coordinate and manage hybrid models of work. However, if done well they can create a work-life in the office that people thrive in, simultaneously providing more harmony at home.