Love where you work! How to encourage staff back to the office

 | Culture & change|Leadership|Teams

Since COVID, working from home has become an accepted norm. According to recent ABS data, more than 40 per cent of employed people now regularly work remotely, up around 30 per cent pre-pandemic.

As businesses, we became more flexible around this as it proved to work well. People were still able to get their work done. In fact, people loved a working day with no commute and more flexibility to balance life. Many said they were more productive.

While lots of studies during the pandemic have shown that people are slightly more productive working from home, other more recent research counterbalances this.

When people are not clear about what they need to do or they’re not getting good support from their organisation, this can impact their health and wellbeing and reduce productivity. 

In fact, there are several benefits to working in the office rather than working from home. It gives back that work/life separation that’s become cloudy. It’s easier to collaborate and communicate face-to-face. It’s also easier to build a strong culture – a factor in business success.

If you’re keen to encourage staff back to the office, here’s our advice.

Create an appealing and safe work environment 

Is your office a great place to be? Ensuring people feel happy and safe when they’re at work is important. If they don’t, this could be one reason that they’ll remain keen to continue working from home.

To deal with this potential issue, you need to take a good look at your physical workplace and start implementing changes that can make it more appealing.

  • Make sure you have a ‘culture of care’ – People want to feel appreciated and cared for at work, meaning compassion, empathy, support, and open communication must be ingrained in your office DNA day to day,
  • Improve your physical office space – Look at things like noise levels and crowding, introduce fresh air and light in your office space, relax your dress code, and offer social opportunities, kitchen facilities and spaces to chill out.
  • Clearly define success – What does success in each role look like? What are the indicators of company success? Set goals and benchmarks for people to work by and meet – and display them around the office.
  • Make leaders the guiding light – This means ensuring you’re all on the same page and have a strong and authentic vision. Leaders must act as a compass for their employees. So be in the office, and make it an inspiring place to be!

Review your employee value proposition (EVP)

What could you offer in your employee value proposition (a fancy way of referring to your ‘people promise’ – what you offer as part of joining the team) that might encourage staff back to the office?

If you’re not already offering hybrid working, look to begin here. Hybrid working is a type of flexible working arrangement where employees work some days in the office and other days at home.

There are different types of remote working models you can offer, depending on the nature of your organisation:

  • Employees to favour office, but allow remote if needed
  • Two days remotely/three days in the office or vice versa
  • One week in the office followed by one week remotely
  • Some teams in the office/other teams remote

Alternatively, you could decide that people work in the office but change to a four-day week so they can maintain a better work/life balance.

You could also include benefits such as having a pet-friendly office and pawternity leave, so people don’t feel like they’re now abandoning their pets after so long working from home.

Subsidised childcare, including after-school care, is another good one for working parents (should kids have come above pets?!). This may be a gentle nudge back for people who have had an easier juggle working from home.

You could also improve your on-site and ‘close to the office’ lifestyle and health benefits. For example, running an in-office yoga or pilates class once a week, providing discounted membership to a neighbouring gym or free food perks such as coffee and lunches.

Focus on re-engaging employees

Employee engagement means your people are emotionally committed to their work, colleagues and organisation. It’s crucial to boosting everything from acquisition to productivity and retention.

During the long pandemic-induced periods of working from home, engagement among your employees – alongside enthusiasm for working back in the office – is likely to have waned without the everyday physical interaction. This calls for a re-engagement action!

So how can you reignite enthusiasm for returning to the office and drive employee engagement? Here are our suggestions:

  • Reinforce your brand, mission and vision – Inspire them with who you are, what you do and what you stand for and believe in. Hold in-office events and share brand goodies. Create that drive to be part of the company again. Make it worth the office commute.
  • Hold inspiring ‘must-attend’ in-office meetings – Show employees just how creative and productive in-person meetings and collaborative sessions can be. Don’t forget the coffee and treats!
  • Build stronger team bonds – Going to a fun, working environment where you get along with people is an effective way to get people back in the physical office space. Arrange more team activities, including outings and lunches, to rebuild those bonds.
  • Foster mentoring relationships – Many executives say having a mentor was an important part of their career. These types of relationships are a great way to re-engage employees lacking motivation and direction. And if people have these connections in the office, they’ll want to show up for them.
  • Open discussions – This is a must. To re-engage your employees back to the office, you need to know what they want to make that happen. What incentives inspire them? What do they want your office space to look and feel like? How many days could they work in office?

Create a desirable office and culture

 Encouraging staff back to the office isn’t easy when they’ve seen the benefits of home working. But being in a physical space together as a team is still crucial to creating a strong, profitable and innovative organisation. It can also be great for them – you just need to show them how!

If you want help in creating a workplace and culture that encourages people back to the office, let’s chat.

Contact the Seed People Consulting team to discuss how we can support developing your diverse culture today!

Meet the author: Stacey Kelly

Stacey brings extensive industry experience and knowledge, as well as the energy, passion and inspiration of a great leader. She previously held senior people/cultures roles in private and public organisations, including Hunter TAFE and Insurance Australia Group (IAG).

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