How to encourage reluctant staff to return to the office: a 4-step guide

After two years of strict government guidelines, we are finally being encouraged to live alongside Covid. So naturally, many firms are looking to reopen their offices. The trouble is, after spending so much time at home, many employees are reluctant to return to the office.

So what's the solution?

Throughout this article, we will explore how to encourage staff back to the office by adopting new working solutions and creating enticing employee incentives.

1. Work with your staff to find new solutions

two colleagues high fivingThe return to work has earned a mixed response from employees. Whilst some are eager to get back into the office, others are actively searching for positions elsewhere to avoid doing so.

So how do you incentivise such polar opposites?

The best way to learn how to encourage staff back to the office is to speak to your team members. Find out what works for them by running surveys, holding group sessions and scheduling one-to-one discussions. They will give you the answers!

For example, an experienced tax specialist may only want to drop into the office once a week. However, a junior member of staff may prefer being on-site so they can shadow more experienced employees, seek their advice and get to know the various departments and team members.

Much like clothing, one size doesn't fit all, so don't force everyone to work in the same way. Otherwise, you'll risk losing staff to firms with flexible working solutions. Instead, work with your employees to strike a balance that suits you both!

Read: 5 tips that will help you trust work gets done with a virtual team

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2. Incentivise your employees

colleagues laughing to represent how to encourage staff back to the officeAfter almost two years of working from home, it's no surprise that your employees have become accustomed to working amongst their home comforts. After all, remote working has meant no more noisy commute, uncomfortable office shoes or stale sandwiches for lunch. How can you compete with that?

Simple! By creating incentives.

The more attractive your office environment is, the more your employees will want to work there. So, in the spirit of helping you understand how to encourage staff back to the office, here are a few simple ideas to incentivise your staff:

  • Freshen up your office space. Try hanging artwork, buying some house plants and adding a fresh lick of paint to walls. It's amazing how these small changes can completely transform your office environment.
  • Hire a catering company to provide fresh meals for your employees. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even offer a free meal once or twice a week.
  • Upgrade your equipment. Consider replacing your tired monitors and investing in ergonomic furniture.
  • Create office-based incentives. For example, you could offer corporate gym memberships for the nearest local gym so employees can train during their breaks and before/after work.
  • Talk to your staff, listen to their suggestions and do your best to accommodate their individual needs.

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3. Prioritise diversity and inclusion

a big open office spaceEquality is an ongoing battle. (After all, the Equality Act is only twelve years old.) So, it is our priority to keep promoting diversity and inclusion.

A fantastic way to do that (whilst learning how to encourage staff back to the office) is to accommodate flexible working. Why? Because in a global survey undertaken by FortuneForum, they found that "flexibility [is] most prized by those who have been underrepresented in knowledge work, including women, people of colour, and working mothers."

Now, we could dive into the history and psychology of office culture to explain why that is (by exploring how offices were once filled almost exclusively with white men and how that is reflected in our cultural norms, workplace behaviours and clothing). But that's a conversation for another time.

Right now, underrepresented individuals want more flexibility regarding their workplace and schedule. So, it's your job to accommodate their needs. If not, you risk losing more than a few staff members.

You risk losing valuable talents, insights and opinions. You risk damaging your workplace culture. And you risk undoing the important work you've done over the last decade to promote diversity and inclusivity.

A diverse workforce is fundamentally a better workforce, so make sure you're accommodating ALL of your staff members.

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4. Identify your firm’s operational requirements

People in an officeIt's safe to say that working from home 100% of the time isn't always the best option. Don't get me wrong - remote working has a lot of great benefits, but the Zoom meetings, online messaging and lack of work-life balance leave something to be desired.

So, in response, employers have started adopting hybrid business models.

Hybrid working allows your employees to retain the flexibility they have enjoyed over the past two years without neglecting your firm's operational requirements. So everyone's a winner!

However, before you can implement this new way of working, you and your leadership team need to work out the non-negotiables for hybrid working. For example:

  • How much time should employees be spending in the office? Calculate the minimum amount of days/hours.
  • In what circumstances can you make an exception to these minimum hours?
  • How often does your entire team need to meet in person? Once a week? Once a fortnight? And for how long?
  • What do your employees need in place to be able to work remotely?
  • Will your core office hours remain the same? Or will you adapt them to suit your staff?

Once you've hashed out all of the details, you can start reaping the many benefits of a flexible working model.

Read: Efficient Virtual Meetings 101: The basics to purposefully running effective meetings with your virtual team.

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Embrace hybrid working

So, there you have it - our best advice for how to encourage staff back to the office.

If there is one main takeaway from this discussion, it's to be flexible! Don't force your staff to come into to office every day if it isn't necessary. Instead, try to make your working culture as accommodating and attractive as possible - you will see a great improvement in staff retention, engagement and productivity. And, who doesn't want that?

 

Not sure how to get your team to work better together?

Download your free copy of our "Team Effectiveness Review" now and pinpoint exactly what you need to do to fix it.

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