From lingering COVID fears to the pain at the pump, workers still have good reason to want to stick with remote work. Here’s how to get them to buy into a hybrid model.
With the COVID-19 pandemic appearing to wind down–at least in the U.S.–more people are craving a return to normal in all walks of life.
But there’s one major exception to this reset: going back to the office every day. The universal daily commute is now a thing of the past (which is a good thing), and it is being replaced in most areas by some combination of remote and on-premises work.
Make no mistake: the office is still important, it’s just no longer for routine daily tasks. It’s instead ideal for things like creative collaboration, team building, and career advancement.
So, for the good of both your business and your workers, you need to find ways to evolve your office so that it becomes a destination of choice that your employees want to be a part of and will make the occasional trip for.
Here are seven things you need to address to get your employees coming back.
MAKE SURE YOUR OFFICE TECHNOLOGY WORKS
When your employees step back into the office for the first time, odds are they will not recognize it. Personal desks, docking stations, large computer screens, and other workplace tools people were accustomed to may be misplaced. Even worse, connecting to the Wi-Fi or VPN can be a headache. Make sure this doesn’t happen. No one wants to commute to the office just to spend the bulk of the day talking to IT. Make sure your office technology is accessible, up-to-date and is easy to connect to.
MAKE COMMUTING LESS OF A BURDEN
Not only does commuting cost money—skyrocketing gas prices and expensive public transit—it also eats up time. When evaluating your company’s benefits program, consider offering certain forms of subsidies or other initiatives to help defray these costs. For employees based in the same region, would it be possible to offer a shuttle service to bring them to and from the office?
HAVE A PLAN FOR COVID
Almost everyone is tired of the pandemic, and everything associated with it. Regardless, even as Omicron appears to be fading, many of your workers are going to feel apprehensive about coming back to public spaces. (For that matter, no one can guarantee that there will be no more COVID waves.) Your workers need to know that you take their safety seriously. Consider documenting a COVID prevention program, mandating virtual health screenings before office visits, or using QR codes (or similar technologies) to grant office access so employees can get to desks without touching anything.
DON’T LET WORK/LIFE BALANCE GET OUT OF WHACK
Even remote employees can feel overworked, as the pandemic blurred the lines between personal and professional time. While commuting into the office on select days may help make that distinction clearer, it’s important that this pattern doesn’t increase employee stress level. Consider altering your business hours on office days or dedicating office days for informal gatherings that promote collaboration or culture-building activities. You don’t want your employees to feel like going to the office is adding to their total workload.
DON’T LET THE OFFICE BE A DRAG
The last two years have shown that people can be highly productive working at home, and subsequently many fear returning to the office will actually slow them down. It’s a legitimate concern, but we need to remind ourselves and our employees that physical collaboration with our colleagues is a critical part of making a company successful. While virtual sessions have undoubtedly been helpful, there’s no substitute for the in-person. The more people use the office to collaborate, the higher the energy in the office. When employees start to witness this new cycle, others will want to go in and be a part of the magic.
REEVALUATE YOUR OFFICE LAYOUT AND RESHAPE IT FOR INTERACTION
If your company has grown or had turnover over the last two years, it’s likely much of your space does not serve the initial purpose it once had. Rework your space so that it becomes a destination for relationship building. Then, act on that remodel by encouraging activities that make interactions effortless and enjoyable.
CONSIDER TRAINING DAYS
Training and development efforts have seen a significant drop due to the barriers of fully remote work. Establish opportunities where employees can benefit from learning from their colleagues. Internal networking fosters durable team dynamics and builds the kind of long-term relationships that help employees feel like a valued member of their team and in turn, further their careers with your company.
In short, think about how your employees’ pain points have changed during the pandemic. Find solutions for those, and you’ll see more of your workers coming back to the office—and even feel good about doing so.
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Paul Statham is the CEO & founder of workspace management platform Condeco, where he has helped to shape the relationship between real estate and technology.