Let’s be honest: a ping-pong table and free lunches won’t bring people back to their offices. If you want to fill your office again, you need to understand your employees’ needs and meet their expectations. This article will help you see the problem from a different perspective.
Why employees don’t want to be in the office?
For about 2 years, pandemic restrictions forced employees to work from home and made it clear that an effective home office is possible. Companies continue to operate and employees continue to do their jobs. Not surprisingly, upon hearing the news of the return to the office, some of them asked a simple question: why?
Some employees believe that the reasons behind persuading them to return are:
- the need for more control from management;
- justification of a high office rental costs;
- justification of the existence of so many managerial positions.
If you want your employees to show up at the office again, you need to give them real reasons to return.
Reason 1: They changed their lives
During the pandemic people used to say that soon everything will “return to normal”. None of them expected that the definition of “normal” will change as well. Remote work influenced the way we organize our lives. For many, visiting the office isn’t as simple as it was previously.
If you necessarily want your employees to work from an office, you could consider renting desks in co-working spaces closer to their places. In case that would be too costly, some co-workings even allow you to buy a card for a specific number of visits.
Reason 2: When it comes to routine tasks, employees can perform them in the office as well as at home
An attractive on-site job must offer more than a home office. A JLL report shows that as many as 33% of employees would like to save time on routine tasks and spend it on creative work.
Consider changing a nature of those visits. Make your office a place of creative meetings and brainstorming, a space for developing a friendly relationships. Your employees will surely notice that visit in the office is a pleasant stepping stone from everyday work routine.
Reason 3: They have no one to come for
At the office, we like to meet and work with friends. Unfortunately, pre-imposed or poorly enforced hybrid work schedules often prevent such meetings.
If you want to encourage your crew to cooperate in the office, hand them more autonomy when it comes to planning office visits. Let their schedules be more flexible and make working together possible. This is the shortest way to filling your office with vivid conversations and laughter once again.
There are scheduling apps that can help you do just that. Tidaro, for example, has desk booking features that allow employees to see who is in the office or to search for colleagues.
Reason 4: They don’t feel well in the office
Could any of your employees feel excluded based on age, gender, nationality, orientation, or any other reason? Only one such situation can write your office off for an employee.
Make sure your office gives employees an opportunity to speak about their emotions and be sure this process isn’t complicated. Reporting a formal complaint is a serious – and sometimes scary – thing to do. Sometimes all we need is someone to hear us out.
Think about an easy and anonymous way for your people to express how they felt in your office.
If you want to read more about exclusion in the context of hybrid and remote work, we recommend this article by The New York Times.
Reason 5: Arrival at office =10+ hour work day
Let’s not kid ourselves, working in an office is more demanding than working from home. In larger cities, it can take up to even 3-4 hours to get to the office and back home by car during rush hours. This drastically extends the time spent at work. Such situations badly influence life-work balance, which employees care about more now than before the pandemic.
Think about how you can save your employees’ free time. Consider including commute time into their 8 hours of working. Make sure they have a parking spot nearby the office. You can even think about funding them alternative means of transport.
Reason 6: The office isn’t attractive
For some employees, the conditions in the office will simply be inconvenient. We have all experienced the famous fights over air conditioning, but the problem is much broader. The quality of the air, the comfort of sitting at a desk, the noise in the office and many other factors affect the comfort of employees. Your office may be very comfortable compared to others, but remember that the alternative for your employees is not another office, but their own chair, desk, etc.
In the meantime, employees can create a cosy home office to match their personality.
If possible, consider dividing your office into smaller zones where your crew can book desks. Include silent zones, areas for those who are always cold or even a sector for people who like occasional small talk during their work. However you want to organize it, remember to listen to your people.
What do employees want during hybrid work?
Slack’s Future Forum report indicates that the work-life balance of rank-and-file employees is 40% worse compared to representatives of managerial positions, and they are also affected by more work-related stress.
It clearly shows that determining what employees expect often misses the mark, as managers and directors find it difficult to take the employee’s perspective.
Think about conducting a hybrid work survey among your team to ask about their expectations toward hybrid work rules.
- Clear and flexible schedule
94% of white-collar workers want flexibility in determining when they work, compared to “only” 79% demanding flexibility in choosing where they work. In addition, more and more employees want to know why they should show up at the office.
Present your crew clear rules via a hybrid work policy by which they can organize their workweek and try to give them as much flexibility as possible.
- Life-work balance
A Microsoft report says that more than half (53%) of employees are more likely to prioritize their health and well-being over work than they were before the pandemic.
Remember, the more satisfactory personal life your people have, the better results they achieve in work. Thus caring about your crew happiness benefit both them and your company.
- Breaking the routine
When coming to the office, employees don’t want to perform the same tasks as they do at home or engage in meeting that can also happen virtually. A change in work routine may be what will attract them to the office.
Let your office be a routine-breaker. To do that you can provide them with work-enhancing technology or simply loosen their schedules a bit so that they can engage in your office life.
What to do to attract people to your office
Below I point out 8 things you need to keep in mind while trying to get your crew back to the office. Mind that not all of them need to ideally apply to your case. Once again I strongly suggest conducting a hybrid work survey among your employees to understand what keeps them away from the office.
1. Don’t force people
The reasons for working remotely are various and it is impossible to list them all. Forcing employees who can perform duties from home to be in the office 2-3 days a week will end up with even more resentment.
2. Try to understand
If you want to know the reasons why your people avoid office visits – ask them. Do an anonymous survey among them and ask to outline their expectations, suggest improvements and point out the biggest problems.
3. Explain why, when, and where
Provide employees with a clear hybrid work policy and express your expectations. Explain when and why you need them in the office. Finally, try to give them as much flexibility as possible and maintain the synergy between your and their needs.
4. Make the office more attractive
Make your office attractive in terms of aesthetics, innovation and convenience. Remember to involve your employees in the decision-making process. They will feel much better in a place they helped create.
5. Add variety to your office work
When visiting the office, allow your employees to enjoy it to the fullest. Give them time to talk, have creative meetings, try new things and anything else they can’t do at home. Office work shouldn’t look like working from home.
6. Ensure that no one feels excluded
Raise awareness about inclusivity in your office. Inform employees about the company’s stance on acceptance and diversity. Ensure that employees have an easy way to express how they feel about your office.
7. Understand the work-life balance of employees
Employees do not want to allocate their free time to work. Think of ways to fit all work-related activities inside 8 work hours. Especially if it takes a long time to get to your office.
Have you ever tried setting aside one day a month to invite everyone to the office and dedicating this day to (not necessarily business) meetings? If not – give it a try. If you have, keep experimenting. The key to success in hybrid work is different for every company.
To fill your place with people again, you need to think about 2 crucial factors: limiting challenges associated with office visits, and making on-site work more attractive than home office.
Think about your crew’s overall office visit experience from the moment they prepare for work, up to the time they get home. Find ways to make their commute easier; let their schedules be more flexible; give them more autonomy with planning office visits; respect their free time; and finally make on-site work more about creative brainstorming, networking, and socializing rather than 8 hours in front of a screen.