Disney, Starbucks, Twitter—many major companies are making headlines lately for asking their employees to come back to the office most or all days of the week. It’s a risky move, considering most employees prefer to work from home at least some days of the week: according to Gallup, 34% of respondents want to work remotely full-time, and 60% want to work a flexible hybrid schedule. A study by Monster even found that two-thirds of employees would quit if they were required to return to the office full-time.
As a result, most companies have gone the hybrid route, asking their employees to come into the office anywhere from one to four days a week. However, with many employees questioning the need to be in the office at all, even this flexible option requires careful planning and consideration. If you ask employees to come back, but don’t give them a valid reason or set them up for success, you’re setting yourself up for an even bigger engagement and retention problem.
So, here are some tips to ensure you’re making the most of your employees’ in-office days:
- Explain the “why”. First and foremost, leaders need to explain why they are asking employees to work from the office (and it needs to be better than increased productivity – employees aren’t buying into that one after two years of working productively from home). Maybe it’s about increasing connections and collaboration, or enhancing innovation and creativity, or maintaining your culture. Whatever it is, make sure you explain it to employees, and have real data and examples to back it up.
- Align with the “why”. You’ve told them why you want them back, now you need to show them you mean it by building in activities that align with the why. For example, if it’s about enhancing connections or boosting collaboration, yet people spend the day working silently with AirPods in and not interacting with each other, what’s the point? Encourage people to interact by hosting activities like office brainstorms, show-and-tell meetings, social events, etc.
- Plan meetings for in-office days. At Padilla’s Richmond office, Tuesday is the day that all employees come into the office (we call it “Together Day”). Our monthly office meeting is on Tuesdays, and we try to plan any other meetings, trainings, social events, etc. for Tuesdays as well. Another option is for each team to pick the day(s) they all come into the office, so they can plan in-person team meetings, brainstorms, etc. for those days, too.
- Create an optimal environment. After the past two years, people are used to being able to control their work environment (i.e., their house) and any noise, interruptions, etc. Help employees readapt to the office setting by reminding everyone of basic office etiquette (for example: don’t take a call from your desk using speaker phone; put headphones on or go to a conference room). Also, make sure the technology is working smoothly; if you’ve asked employees to come into the office, make sure they have the tools they need to actually work in the office.
- Infuse some fun. One of the top reasons employees DO want to go back to the office is for the social aspect, so capitalize on that by making their days in the office fun! Admittedly, that tends to involve food and beverages. At Padilla, we started a ritual called, “Tuesday Treat Day,” where we put out treats every Tuesday at 2 p.m. (we love a good alliteration). We also bring in lunch occasionally, plan happy hour get-togethers, and host office-wide games and competitions.
- Ask for employee input. If you aren’t sure what will resonate best with your employees, ASK them! Most people won’t be shy about telling you what they want and need for their days in the office. But remember, if you’re going to ask for their input, be prepared to listen and actually use it.
For more advice on employee engament, contact our team of experts.
This article was initially published by our sister company Padilla.
——— Samantha Strader is Director, Corporate Advisory Group at Padilla, sister company of NATIONAL Public Relations