After the restrictions of the pandemic eased, opinion was divided over whether it was a good idea for employees to return to regular office-based work, or stick to working from home.
Naturally, employers who had made major investment into office premises and who preferred to oversee employees in person favored a return to the office. On the other side, employees who found they could save commuting time, save money and improve their work/life balance by largely working remotely wanted to keep doing so. However, as time has passed, these lines have become blurred. Employers have come to appreciate the extra job satisfaction and productivity that employees get from flexibility, when some employees have started realizing what they’re missing out on when working at home on their own.
Of course, some businesses have been more successful in encouraging a return to the office than others, but many are still struggling to convince their workforce why office-based work still holds real value in a post-pandemic world.
To help you with these conversations with your employees, we’ve put together this brief playbook of key points you can put across to your reluctant commuters. We’ve assumed that you’re on a phone call or video call with them to discuss their future work arrangements, and while not all of these will apply to every employee, these seven factors can help you reshape their thinking about office work:
“You can choose when you come in.”
Employees like having independence and autonomy over where and when they work, to the point that forcing them into the office on a set schedule will make them feel negative about the experience. Letting them choose when they want to come in, and enabling the easy advance booking of workspaces whenever they need them, can help the office be viewed as an extra option and not a inconvenience
“You can book your perfect workspace.”
If employees are happy working in their own dedicated space at home, then it can be hard to convince them to work from the office if they feel the workspaces there will be a compromise. Reshaping your office environment with a variety of different workspace types, all shared and bookable by everyone to use, can maximize the choice available to employees.
“You can get more working space than you get at home.”
Not every employee has a spare room or large space in their living room to install a fully-equipped home office; employees in shared or cramped accommodation may find it difficult to work long-term off the kitchen table or sofa. For these employees, the offer of a full-size, dedicated workspace – complete with peace and quiet if they need it – can be extremely compelling.
“You can see your co-workers in person.”
Some remote employees can suffer from the isolation of being at home on their own all day, especially if their only interaction with employees is restricted to chat platforms and video calls. Coming into the office gives them a chance to see their co-worker friends in the flesh, catch up with them, and strengthen the social bonds which facilitate better teamwork.
“You can collaborate more easily than on a video call.”
The ability to collaborate virtually has its limitations, especially in the ability to read body language and hold a fluid, free-flowing conversation. Holding fully in-person meetings in a pre-booked meeting room can help employees understand how much easier and more productive collaboration can be face-to-face. It can therefore encourage them to do the same with their own meetings in future.
“You can learn from senior employees.”
Younger employees in particular have started to clamor for more office work, as they have realized that they’re missing out on development opportunities when working remotely. By working in the office, they can talk to more experienced co-workers and observe how they deal with challenges, helping them learn new skills they can apply to their own work.
“You can save on your energy costs.”
The cost of living crisis is biting hard in many parts of the world, especially in Europe as the winter sets in and heating requirements go up. For employees with shorter commutes, the cost of traveling to the office may be smaller than the cost of the gas and electricity they consume working at home, meaning they can actually save money by coming into the office.