The Best Ways To Get Your Team Back In Office
Pack up the lunches and put away the patio furniture. Summer’s over, kids are back in school, and workers are returning to the office—not just from vacation but also following the post-pandemic remote work revolution.
But not everyone is willing to give up the new, home-bound lifestyle that they’ve learned to love during the pandemic. So how can business leaders inspire and encourage employees to re-embrace the commute, the water-cooler, and the conference room?
In this post we’ll look at some of the carrots business leaders can use to entice their workforce back into the fold.
Companies want employees back at the office
There’s a strong desire among company heads to get people back into the office.
Data from the latest Microsoft Work Trend Index research shows that 82 percent of business leaders say getting back to the office in person is a concern. A recent survey estimates that 90 percent want workers to return to the office in 2023.
In June, Meta announced that employees would have to return to the office for three days a week following Labour Day. Earlier this year, Amazon too mandated a return to the office for three days a week.
Ironically, the company that has made remote work more possible than ever is also calling its workforce back home to roost. In August, Zoom asked staff living within an 80-km radius to start coming in for in-person face-time two days a week.
Better communication, increased productivity and collaboration, and a stronger company culture are reasons business leaders are giving for wanting a return to fluorescent-lit normalcy.
The challenge of getting employees to return to the office
Some companies have faced pushback from workers. For example, shortly after Amazon instituted its return-to-work policies, workers walked out to protest the new rules (and to encourage the mega-co. to adopt more climate-friendly policies).
“Once a bell has been rung, it cannot be unrung,” McMaster University human resources and management professor Catherine Connelly told CBC. “And once employees have had an opportunity [to] work from home, they’re going to continue to expect to be allowed to do that in the future.”
According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index, 73 percent of employees say they need a better reason than just company expectations. They argue that working remotely has resulted in a better quality of life and work/life balance.
Not helping matters is the fact that employees have more remote work options than ever.
Emphasize social capital to bring workers back to the office
Many companies are instituting hybrid approaches, such as instituting four-, three-, or even one-day-a-week return-to-the-office policies. Some are letting their workers arrange their own schedules.
Beyond that, employers are looking at both psychological and material carrots rather than sticks.
Writing in Harvard Business Review, Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president of worldwide consumer business, recommends emphasizing the social aspects of gathering in workplace.
In 2022, Capossela wrote that Microsoft’s research revealed the “the answer may lie in what I believe should be front and center for every leader: reconnecting employees.”
“Leaders need to intentionally use the office to rebuild social capital: the value workers get from their networks, like getting new ideas and inspiration, being able to ask for help or advice, or finding new career growth opportunities,” Capossela writes. “Social capital isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s crucial so that employees can do their best work and organizations can keep innovating.”
To this end, he recommends business leaders take steps to prioritize building and rebuilding connections between people. Strip away busywork, he suggests. Create new in-person rituals, like an extended catered lunch or “team weeks” that bring together local and remote employees.
And whatever you do, do it with authenticity.
“Lead by using an authentic voice that communicates openness, inclusivity, and that you’re there to help people build their social capital. Ask how you, as a leader, can create a culture and work environment where every employee feels safe to connect on a deeper level, beyond transactional relationships.”
Redesigning work culture to bring employees back
Another step leaders can take is to redesign their work culture. This might mean cosmetic changes like adding greenery. More snacks and a better espresso-maker are obvious solutions, but hanging more art is another step that leaders can take to spruce up the workplace, writes Rhett Power, author, and executive coach, at forbes.com.
To this end, you can also take steps to make the office feel like home. This doesn’t mean a bring-your-pet-to-work day (although, maybe…?).
Also, ask your workforce what they would like to see. Maybe seeing the company’s neon logo blaring at them from every corner isn’t their idea of a relaxing atmosphere. Soothing lighting and neutral colors—something more homey and comforting—might be the ticket.
When it comes to getting workers back to the office, business leaders can’t bury their heads in the sand. Employees have had a taste of remote work, and now it’s up to companies to give them more reasons to come back to the office.