Tips to Attracting Your Own Talent Back to the Office

No matter how robust your office-reopening plan is, there are bound to be some employees who will be reluctant to embrace the office life once again.

Whether it’s due to health concerns or merely the effort of once again changing routines, many will want to remain working from home for the time being.

In addition, really robust and successful work-from-home policies could actually come back to bite you if they have made the office obsolete. In fact, LiveCareer found that one-third of workers would quit before going back to the office full-time.

On the other hand, empty buildings have been haunting the financial department for the last year. Questions about buying and selling are impossible to answer without gauging use, which requires employees to be in the office. Moreover, investments and maintenance are hard to justify when there are no occupants. Many companies are making executive decisions based on the successes of remote work, suggesting that the office has died. We’re not so convinced, and don’t think you should be either.

While remote work can be seamlessly substituted for a lot of things, it cannot replace everything.

So, what then to do?

What you want to avoid in this scenario is seemingly the easiest option – force your employees to go back to work via company mandates. Not only will this ruffle feathers, but you will likely lose some of your workforce (remember that stat above?) and also deter any potential applicants.

This article will cover the right way to get people back in the office: show them that they actually want to.

Safety First

Above all else, employees need to feel safe – physically, mentally, and financially. Employers should explicitly, repeatedly, and transparently describe how they plan to make their workplace a safe place.

Some concerns about returning to the office can be quelled merely by thoroughly communicating the company’s physical safety initiatives and policies. Those may include symptom checks, physical distancing of workspaces, staggered scheduling, testing, personal protective equipment requirements, enhanced cleaning, and others.

While the emphasis of late has been on creating physical safety vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic, fostering a strong sense of psychological safety to the same extent will be imperative for employers to prioritize.

For starters, employees need to feel like they will not face consequences for expressing their needs or feeling reluctant to head back to the office.

 

Need guidance on creating and communicating your office reopening plan? Check out our resources:

Flexibility

Research shows most employees do want to spend three to five days in the office each week. Only about 12% want to work from home permanently. Being flexible with not only how many days one can work from home, but also which days will allow your employees to set schedules that work best for them.

How flexible you can be will depend on a variety of factors. Now is the time to set some ground rules around when employees are expected to be available to collaborate in person or remotely.

If you don’t already have a remote work policy, we’ve got you! Access our article and guide here.

Providing employees with a mix of different types of workspaces in-office makes the idea of coming to the office more appealing as it diversifies its use. Creating more options for workspaces and can increase the amount of time people spend in-office if they can accomplish many different tasks without having to commute back and forth. Some employees will also value to the office for different reasons, and catering to these needs through a variety of spaces will encourage more frequent use.

While giving your workforce more flexibility can contribute to a positive employee experience, it’s not such a great experience if someone spends 45 minutes commuting only to find themselves in an office that’s mostly empty or entirely full. Pairing your policies with IoT systems that can monitor and report occupancy data in real-time that can be accessed anywhere can improve the hybrid-work experience by allowing people to organize and make the best use of their time in-office. Make it easy for employees to find and reserve those spaces or access workplace services by using a user-friendly mobile app.

For that 12% who still would err to remain at home, employers that can communicate the larger ‘why’ for getting people back together in person to encourage and inspire the transition back.

Connection

It’s hardly surprising given the strict social distancing measures of the last year, but Gensler’s research affirms that what employees miss most about being away from the office is interacting with their colleagues. For some extroverts, this will be enough to get them to frequent the office.

However, relying on coffee or breakroom interactions to create connections and spur innovation will no longer suffice with a reduced office occupancy. Now that your workplace will likely have more variable schedules and flexible seating, you’ll need to find new, creative ways to help everyone reconnect. This could involve providing new forms of recreation or amenities at your office (more on this later), scheduling catered lunches every once in a while or volunteering at a local charity as a company.

The level of trust between employees and their managers is strongly correlated with how they feel about returning to work. Empathetic leaders who regularly check in on the lives of their teams will be better positioned to craft messages that address employee concerns. Managers who are taking care of employee’s whole sense of wellbeing will have an easier time than those focused purely on their output; encourage your leadership to be proactive in creating these relationships to help you down the road.

Let’s not forget about the fun part: once it’s safe to gather, office parties, get-togethers, and simple opportunities for reconnecting with coworkers will be motivators for employees to return to the office. With people start coming back and having in-person meetings, a measure of FOMO—fear of missing out—will prompt others to join them.

Development

The lack of professional development and learning opportunities has been cited as a major drawback of remote work experienced over the past year. Now is the time to use this to your advantage and make your office a seminar and networking hub. Hosting regular company-wide training programs at your company headquarters gives everyone a reason to get back together.

This is particularly important when it comes to attracting Millennials and Gen Z employees, as a recent Gallup report showed 59% of Millennials said opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when they’re applying for a job.

Further, according to a recent CNBC survey, nine out of ten employees who have a career mentor say they’re happier with their jobs. Your office is also a great place for employees to find mentors, whether it’s through formal mentorship programs or more casual interactions.

Recognition is also a great way to motivate employees and boost engagement after working remotely for a long period of time. Recognition programs also help create an emotional bond between people and heightens self-esteem.

Amenities

The future – in this case – is crystal clear: the future of the employee experience is personalization.

Every employee has unique reasons for wanting to return to the office and distinct expectations about what it should offer. Providing a variety of spaces and amenities in your new, reimagined workplace will help you exceed these expectations and draw people back to this space.

Use a variety of means to gather opinions and data about the desires of your employees to ensure you are considering everyone in your plans and making decisions that will result in maximum benefit. And because employees’ needs and expectations are always evolving, it will be important to monitor usage and occupancy patterns so you can continue to make adjustments as needed.

When employees feel more at home in the office, they’ll be more eager to come back to it. This is an opportunity to reconsider how the work is done and where it’s done.

Takeaway

The return-to-office is complex and highly nuanced. Your strategies cannot be determined overnight, nor will they be perfect right off the bat. But with time, a little tweaking, and a lot of feedback, you can create a new office experience that will attract even the most reluctant employees back every so often.

To use the stick-or-carrot analogy, always go with the carrot. Leverage the inherent advantages of the office and build upon them with new technologies, strategies, and amenities that will have your employees excited to come back and motivated for this new season.