At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses switched to remote work to protect their team members. While some initially struggled with the change, many companies and professionals have embraced the flexibility. Still, some leaders would prefer to bring their employees back into the office to take advantage of the culture-building and productivity-boosting aspects of in-office camaraderie.
However, employers may struggle to convince employees that a return to the office is the right move. Below, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust offer tips for making in-office work more attractive and workable for employees who’ve become accustomed to working from home.
1. Address their safety concerns.
Implement requirements for wearing masks. Hand-washing stations and temperature checks should be available upon arrival for both office visitors and employees. Introduce new supplies, technologies and capabilities throughout the office to ensure the minimal transmission of bacteria and viruses — for example, you might introduce no- or low-touch fixtures (faucets, door handles, buttons and so on) throughout the office. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
2. Know and communicate the ‘why.’
As leaders, if we are asking our teams to return to the office when they believe it may not be necessary and prefer working at home, there should be a compelling and valuable reason. Don’t use the in-office time for the same work that can be done at home. Consider a hybrid of at-home and in-office work to maximize the benefits of each. – Natalie Ruiz, AnswerConnect
3. Capitalize on the factors they can’t get at home.
Consider the factors that you have in the workplace — factors that a worker won’t have at home — and capitalize on them. Covid-19 has proven that many people greatly prefer in-person interaction. Offer ways for employees to safely interact in a more relaxed setting. – Toshiyasu Abe, OPAS
4. Incentivize in-person collaboration sessions.
This is something we’re all thinking about. I think it will be important to give workers the flexibility to determine how often they come to the office. At the same time, we will want to take care to maximize the benefits of the times when we all do convene together. Incentivize ways to collaborate with coworkers — take lunch together and hold brainstorming sessions. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact
5. Let employees weigh in on office design.
Encouraging employees to participate in the office design is key. Whether that involves flexible days/hours, great snack options, child care or updated office amenities, including the staff in the decision-making process is fundamental to buy-in. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
6. Consider a flexible work model.
You may have employees who are very effective when working from home and others who are more effective when working in the office. Develop a results-focused culture — rather than fixating on the traditional office workplace model, consider what conditions will lead to employees being the most productive and effective according to their individual strengths. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology
7. Give them the best of both worlds.
There have been news stories showing that it’s not that employees don’t want to return to the office — what they want is to keep the flexibility they have now. It’s a good time to experiment with new hybrid models of work as we transition back to the office. Enabling employees to keep some of the flexibility of working from home as we bring back in-office operations could give staff and managers the best of both worlds. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
8. Let your team members design their schedules.
There is a pride that comes from walking into an office and being part of a great organization. Still, more often than not, we waste so much time commuting, in meetings and so on that it can actually be counterproductive — and of course, there are distractions. The key is to make coming to work more flexible and to allow people to start building their own schedules. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.
9. Include everyone in your decisions.
Include all of your people in the decision-making process. Ensure their voices are heard during this transition, or you are at risk of losing great talent. Ask, “What did you enjoy most, and least, about being remote? Would you prefer your schedule to be fully remote, a blend or mostly in the office with the occasional opportunity to work remotely? What has been most productive and least productive about remote work?” – Mike Sipple, Centennial Talent Strategy and Executive Search
10. Blend in-office work and social gatherings with remote work.
Blending in-office, collaborative work sessions and social gatherings with remote work creates a good balance and ensures people are still connected to each other and to the business’s goals. This also ensures that communication continues to flow throughout a company. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising