How to make people WANT to come back to the office

For my last two articles, I have been exploring the dilemma and strategies around the ‘Great Return’; getting people to return to the office after two years of settling into a work from home environment.  

Leaders, for the large part, want people to return to an In the Office (ITO) workplace model if not all, then at least some of the time.  

We have explored some strategies around how to do this, including changing the language and mindset of working from home; positioning it as a privilege rather than an entitlement, setting non-negotiable days and reasons employees have to be in the office and outlining the career limitations for those who choose to remain working from home. Perhaps another strategy is to change the office workplace and culture to make it more enticing for people to come back; rather than enforcing a return to work. What are some strategies employers are using around the world to make the office a compelling destination? 

Pre-covid, the office was the one and only destination for work. Now the office is competing with the home office. Staff need to jump several hurdles to get to the office; they need to get ready, leave their homes and make the commute. It’s a hustle and bustle effort to get to work each day. It’s no wonder working from home can be more attractive. Why bother making the effort to commute after all, when you can do what you need to do from the comfort of home?

Now more than ever before, businesses need to reinvent their office space to be a magnetising destination if they want to attract and retain good talent.

Give your office a Refurb to suit it’s changing role 

Is your office set up with individual work desks and needing to be redesigned to be more collaborative, with more casual meeting areas? Employers embracing a hybrid work model may have staff doing more administrative duties from home, but coming in to the office for meetings and collaboration. There is a greater need for offices to allow for this rather than the silo-ed work pods of the past. Many businesses now have hot-desking as the norm, whereby employees can ‘book a desk’ on their ITO days. There are less isolated desk pods and more common areas.  

Was your office a bit boring pre-pandemic? Maybe it can do with some new furniture, a new layout, or even better office space? You don’t want your employees coming back to the same tired office you had prior to remote working. Think about how you could refresh the office to make it new and a bit more exciting?  

Research shows that when people experience a workplace as stimulating or inspiring, they feel a greater sense of belonging and community which makes them more engaged and productive and inspires innovation. If your office space was a little stagnant prior to the pandemic, you certainly want to make some changes to it to create a welcoming and inspiring space now. New furniture, artwork, introduce a café… make it a place that fosters collaboration, and a place people want to spend time in.  

Change the office location 

Is your office in a hard-to-get-to location? Is it feasible to move the office space to a more convenient location closer to where people live? Perhaps you don’t need such a big office space if you have people working from home half the time, especially if you rotate the days people are coming in.  

Create an office where well-being matters 

If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it is that mental health is extremely important for the wellbeing and engagement of employees. Those employees struggling with mental health, or even susceptible to mental health issues will be compelled to continue working from home. Creating an office that fosters well-being is good for the mental health of employees. Is it possible to have an office with access to outdoor lawned areas or to capture views of nature. Are there adequate areas people can rejuvenate or refresh during the day? Can there be music playing in the background to allow for a more relaxed workplace?  These ideas are all ways of enticing people to the office and making it an attractive destination for current and new employees.  

Offer free food  

Consider offering free lunches, coffees, snacks and so on for those who come to the office. It’s certainly going to be more compelling coming into the office if you know there is a fridge stocked with beverages, fresh fruit in the kitchen, a barista there to make you coffee whenever you want one, and free pizza delivered for lunch or doughnuts for afternoon tea. Even Friday afternoon drinks and cheese platter is a great end to the day.  

Create certain days for certain teams  

Leaders need to embrace hybrid working and communicate what days staff should come in ensuring that the whole team turns up on the same day to make the most of it. Speak with employees to see what days work best for them, this creates a buy-in for employees where they are being heard and get to choose their days. They will be used to working from home and knowing on Wednesdays they can take their kids to soccer or ballet in the afternoons, so probably Mondays and Fridays suit them better, for example.  

Leaders need to be aware that in order to attract and retain staff, they need to work hard to create an office culture that is enticing and compelling and fosters dynamic engagement; if they want people to want to return to the office.  

I’d love to hear how you are enticing staff back into the office more. If your leadership team could do with my help get in touch today, I’d love to hear from you.

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