So, you want your team back in the office. Maybe your company hasn’t transitioned to remote working well, and employees are feeling disconnected. Or the new, junior members of the team aren’t sticking around because they are struggling to learn and feel connected.
Because despite the big shift to remote working, it does have its drawbacks. And these drawbacks that can have significant negative impacts on your team, and on your business.
A study from Microsoft found that 73% of employees said they would need a better reason to return to the office than “company expectations”. So it’s your job to outline the reasons of not just why you are having the team come back into the office more often, but what the benefits are for them!
Remote work and hybrid working was (and is) lauded as helping employees to improve their work-life balance. After all, reducing the daily commute from an hour’s drive or train ride to a walk to your home-office can free up a lot of time and stress.
But studies have shown that remote workers are actually compensating for the pleasure of working from their own home, by working on average an extra hour a day when compared to their in-office counterparts!
The lack of a clear separation between the home and work has even led to an increase of workers in the US working on weekends. A study from Robert Half found that 68% of workers surveyed said that when they transitioned to remote work they occasionally worked on weekends.
So being back in the office, even on a hybrid basis, can have positive impacts on your employees work-life balance.
Training and development is crucial to employee wellbeing and employee retention. If your team feels like they aren’t being invested in, then they’ll start looking for someone who will invest in them.
And despite employee desires for remote working, being in the office can significantly improve how much training and professional development an employee receives. A study from WFH Research found that compared to remote workers, employees who went into the office spent:
This extra time spent in professional development is even more crucial for those who are just starting out in their career: Being able to provide this career development and training is your responsibility, and you need the experienced, senior members of your team to support you in this.
And while you can try your best as an employer or manager to offer training and progression, something you can’t always replicate is the quality of in-person training or interaction.
A study from the University of Leeds found that for those starting in their career, remote work has multiple negative effects including:
Surprisingly, shifting to remote work hasn’t all been positive for the mental health and wellbeing of employees. Despite what we are often led to believe.
A report from Indeed highlighted the effects that remote work can have on metal health. It found that 45% of those interviewed missed in-person meetings with colleagues and that 73% missed socialising with colleagues in person.
This is further evidenced from a study from Entrepreneur, who found that 72% of workers experienced loneliness every month.
The evidence shows that in theory, remote working can have many benefits. It can help people to establish better working hours, help them enjoy working where they like, and give them more time with families and friends. But actually implementing a successful remote working environment where people feel connected to colleagues, isn’t so simple.
Now you know some of the benefits about returning to the office, it’s your job to communicate these benefits to your employees. How is what you’re proposing, going to solve these issues that your employees are having?
Many of the companies that struggled with remote working are businesses that usually enjoyed a vibrant and social company culture. While you can try, it can be difficult to replicate a social atmosphere remotely. And with so many employees reporting feeling lonely when working remotely, it’s clear that it doesn’t work for everyone.
So if that’s a large part of your reason for the return to the office, then lean into it! Create more social events for your team to enjoy: Lunches out paid for by the company, an early finish on Fridays, taking the team out for drinks, or running competitions and incentives for those in the office…
The possibilities are endless, and all show that you want the team back in the office for the right reasons!
If you’re switching to a hybrid working model, then working with your separate teams and employees to coordinate the days they come into the office can help them feel like they have more authority over the switch.
Additionally, your business likely has multiple teams working on different projects and client campaigns. You may not even want all your teams back in the office, when meeting rooms will be booked up.
The Work Trend Index from Microsoft found that 74% of employees would go into the office more frequently if they knew that their work friends would also be there. In the same vein, 73% would go to the office more if they knew their team members would also be there.
One key instrument in your incentivising the return to the office is to give your employees agency, some choice in when they return.
One of the greatest benefits of being in the office is the availability of training and development opportunities. So having dedicated days where your team comes into the office can help give a valid reason for having teams all come in on the same day.
And while it’s not the most exciting perk in the world, having organised training and career development is a perk that most employees want. The earlier Microsoft study found that 76% of employees say they would stay at their company longer, if they had more opportunities for learning and development.
Showing how not only can having organised training days help incentivise your team back into the office, it can improve employee retention too.
One of the struggles for remote workers has been the separation of work and home, and establishing boundaries. If your team is regularly working late when they work from home, make it clear to your in office employees that you expect them to be finished on time: That there’s no perceived expectation to stay late and put in extra hours.
Some companies even have earlier finished just for those in the office, using commute times to justify these earlier finishes.
Additionally, you can create incentives for your in-office team. As we stated before, a common one is having an early finish on Fridays (especially in summer months). So that your team can go for drinks or food after work, and unwind together after the week.
One of the best things about remote working is the convenience. With your only commute being to your favourite coffee shop, or to your home-office. So your aim should be to make it as convenient as possible for your employees to get into the office. And there’s a few ways we see companies doing this such as: Travel cards, season tickets, car allowance, bike-to-work schemes, company cars etc.
Some of these are nothing new, but they are tried and tested ways of helping support your employees commute.
If you’re looking to reduce the remote working and get your team back into the office, then you need to make sure that the return to the office is in your employees best interest. The first step is understanding the practical and real benefits to your employees. Then using these to create incentives, tailored to your individual employees and company culture. That’s how you create a seamless return to the office that makes your employees happy to be back.
Because if you do a blanket, force everyone back to the office, all you’re likely to end up with is some empty seats as your employees jump ship. And worst of all, your highly-skilled employees who know their worth, are the ones most likely to start looking elsewhere…
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