The office has been an important pillar of workplace productivity. It’s a central hub where coworkers can collaborate and socialize, managers can host regular in-person meetings, and work schedules can be easily managed.
Yet during the COVID pandemic, the office briefly faded from memory. Employees around the world were forced to work remotely and, for many, this transition opened their eyes to the benefits of remote work.
This leads us to the current issue many companies face: the question of how to get employees back to the office even when they’ve become enamored with a new way of working.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the most common challenges of getting employees back into the office and how you can overcome them and support the seamless transition back to office-based working.
State Your Case Clearly
Not every company has the luxury of supporting a remote or hybrid work model, and for some, it simply doesn’t make sense to transition to a new way of working.
However, even though this may be clear among your leadership group, it’s the employees that will need the most convincing. Many workers now believe that the grass is greener, that working remotely is the future, and that it allows for greater work-life balance, among other benefits.
That’s why one of the first things on your to-do list is to clearly state your case as to why you want your employees to return to the office.
If you’re struggling to articulate specific reasons, here are a few you might identify with:
In-office Work Enables Effective Collaboration
There’s no denying that many employees claim higher levels of productivity when working from home - and this may well be true. However, in many cases, the chances of effective collaboration are greater when coworkers can meet in person and share ideas effortlessly.
With all the efforts made to replicate the in-person work environment virtually, there’s no substitute for brainstorming and innovating in the presence of others.
PRO TIP: With desktop activity monitoring software Insightful, you can track productivity and identify trends in both individual and team performance. Web monitoring also gives you insights into when teams work and what apps they use, and whether they are collaborating effectively.
One of the most compelling reasons to present to employees for returning to the office is the opportunity to socialize again.
Even though companies have found creative ways to stay in touch - including virtual quizzes, games, and icebreakers - it’s no replacement for real in-person interaction.
Loneliness and isolation are commonly reported by remote workers, and in-office work is an excellent way to address these feelings. Feeling cut adrift from coworkers can take a toll on employee well-being, so the promise of in-person interaction is often a strong counterargument for overcoming reluctance toward returning to the office.
PRO TIP: Socialization doesn’t have to get in the way of workday productivity. You can use Insightful as a productivity management tool, monitoring idle time through the activity chart and making sure productivity levels don’t drop off for the in-office return.
Sharpen and Showcase Professional Skills
For employees that aren’t swayed by the promise of more straightforward collaboration and social opportunities, the promise of sharpening their professional skills might just do the trick.
Career-focused individuals respond well to being given opportunities to flourish in their roles and showcase their skills. Why not detail how employees can benefit professionally by returning to the office?
Here are some of the ways employees can hone their skills at the office:
- The opportunity to speak with mentors and learn from them directly
- Demonstrate leadership by exercising autonomy in a group setting
- Show flexibility and communication skills by engaging in cross-functional collaboration with other teams
When you use an employee tracking app, you can effectively identify top performers and those who are underperforming. Through work monitoring, you can then draw up a clear picture of which employees will benefit most from professional training and identify good candidates to become mentors.
PRO TIP: Pen a return to work letter in which you clearly outline these reasons for returning to the office along with practical information about what the ‘new normal’ will look like.
Offer Incentives to Sweeten the Deal
While you might not feel like you need to offer perks and incentives to get your employees back to the office, it could be worth your while.
Because it can help overcome objections your employees may have about returning to the office, mitigate the risk of them seeking employment elsewhere, and increase engagement.
The right kinds of perks make the office a desirable work environment since employees can access experiences or enjoy classes that they wouldn’t be able to if they worked remotely.
Here are some examples of incentives that actually make employees want to come back to the office:
- On-site childcare
- Mindfulness classes
- Commuter discounts
- Professional skills development courses
- Free meals
For some, access to their own productivity data can be an incentive. Insightful, one of the best computer monitoring tools, lends itself to this kind of self-appraisal. Using activity monitoring software, driven employees can advance their careers by finding out when they’re most productive or when they’re prone to idle time.
Listen to Employees and Address Objections
If despite your best efforts, employees remain resistant to returning to the office, it’s likely your employees have other reasons for shunning the office.
In this case, it’s worth taking the time to listen to resistant employees. Try to empathize with their position and allow them to vocalize their concerns. It may be that you disagree, but at least this way, you know exactly what it would take to get them back to the office.
In some cases, you might need to remind employees of contractual obligations. If you have an employee who has moved away and insists on working remotely now even though that was never on the table, you can warn them that this could be grounds for termination.
You may even reach a compromise with some employees and find that there are some things you can do to make the office a much more desirable place to work.
Here are some suggestions you might hear from employees:
- Make the office furniture more casual to imitate remote work environments
- Allow for some flexibility with work schedules or even consider the hybrid work model
- Enable employees to design their workspace how they wish
It may not be possible to completely restructure the way you work and move to a hybrid work model, but there are likely smaller changes or concessions you could make to accommodate employees that raise objections.
In the first few weeks, you might learn a lot by employing stealth monitoring software which will give you a solid indication of whether your employees are thriving in the office or daydreaming of remote work.