Saturday, September 23, 2023

How leaders lure employees back to the office

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

It’s been three years since the height of the COVID-19 global health crisis. Although almost every organization is back to ‘business as usual’, many companies today look very different than at the beginning of 2020.

One of the most important changes is the rise of remote working. While telecommuting is a blessing for some companies, it is not the right solution for every company. That’s what a recent study estimates 90% of the leaders want employees to be able to return to the office in 2023. This is a great question, especially since almost three quarters of the employees need incentives to return to traditional office life. “Because we say so” is no longer a compelling reason, especially in a job market that still is prefers candidates over employers.

You may need to get creative if you want to get your employees back to the office. You’ve probably demonstrated resilience and innovation by enabling your team members to work from anywhere. Now you have to rely on that same innovation mindset to get everyone to show up in person again.

If you’re wondering how to get employees excited to get back to the office, consider these recommendations:

1. Redesign your culture.

Instead of turning back the clock and pretending nothing happened, use this moment to reinvent your culture. Many corporate cultures could use a restart anyway. Now could be the perfect time to try something different to boost connectivity and camaraderie.

Jasmine Pierichead of arts program, events and member experience at The Yard, says her company is bringing everyone back to a warmer, more artsy workplace.

“Each of our 11 locations has a curator in residence who, together with me, organizes one exhibition per quarter at each location,” says Pierik. Bringing accessible gallery space to the local creative community, the program surrounds team members with stunning, thought-provoking art that changes regularly. This catalyzes conversation and connection. “It adds another layer to what we do here, diversifying the ecosystem and making The Yard much more than a place to work,” says Pierik.

Your employees will appreciate creative solutions to make your workplace more attractive and unique. Be proactive and involve your employees in these decisions. Gather feedback and come up with fun ways to emulate what your employees love about being at home. The more input you allow your employees, the more likely they are to want to return.

2. Embrace the conversation with the water cooler.

Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of consumer business at Microsoft, describes the underlying reasons why most attempts to return to work fail. “No one wants to go to the office and video call and answer emails and pings all day,” writes Kapossela.

For generations, people have enjoyed work for a reason other than the job: it allowed them to connect with people other than their relatives, friends, and neighbors. For many employees, their colleagues were their friends, and being around others who understood their industry gave them a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

While there are still plenty of opportunities to connect online, planning in-person events and creating a collaborative office space can help rekindle your employees’ desire to be together again. You don’t want to risk losing the sense of belonging that office work can bring.

3. Redefine flexibility.

You may need to add more benefits to your employees’ packages to get them to agree to come back full-time or part-time. Kathryn Mayer, former benefits editor at Human Resource Executive, suggests be very thoughtful with all the benefits you offer and tailor them to your employees. For example, if you have many parents with young children, consider offering childcare benefits.

Another benefit that can be irresistible to employees is flexible scheduling. About 95% of the people say they want to arrange their schedules. Remember that flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean working remotely. Flexibility could mean arriving at the office at 10 a.m. and leaving at 7 p.m., or working four 10-hour days instead of a more traditional schedule.

How can you be sure that your incentives will arrive properly? Measure them. Almost anything can be measured, including who takes paid time off and who leaves it on the table. Tracking statistics helps you determine which benefits to keep and which new ones to offer.

4. Make the office feel like home.

Be honest: does your workplace feel like home, or is it a practical, sterile environment? To entice employees to give up their comfy couches and warm home offices, make sure your spaces feel cozy and relaxed. While it’s fine to have buttoned-up areas, you may want quiet, private areas or areas where people can relax together.

However, this is about more than just staging your workplace. You need to balance the many needs of your employees. Don’t assume that putting a section in your break room will suddenly get employees ready to return to the office. Ask employees what they want to see and spend your budget on a new layout and design.

You may even want to go a step further and remove all characters from your logo. Monday. com has done this with great effect. Instead of annoying employees with a big sign that says “you’re in the office,” the company introduced soothing lighting and neutral colors. This promotes a smooth psychological transition from home to the workplace.

There will always be employees who don’t want to go back to work after so many years of working virtually. However, if you think carefully about the transition and increase the appeal of the office, you will be surprised how quickly everyone adapts. Just be prepared to increase your budget for drinks and snacks – all those employees can’t find their flow without a little fuel.

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