If your company office resembles a scene from March 2020, with abandoned desks and an empty work kitchen then you’re not alone. For 82% of business decision-makers, getting employees to return to the office is currently a major concern.
We will examine nine of the best ways to bring employees back into the office, with incentives and perks they can’t refuse, while also looking at the reasons behind their pushback.
Why do companies want employees back in the office?
Before even exploring how companies can motivate employees into the office, we need to understand why it’s important for employers to get people back at their desks.
There are some opinions that the push driving people back into the office is a generational issue. Older leaders are used to office-based work culture and want to return to their ‘norm’ without considering changing attitudes of younger generations.
Others are vocal about the benefits of in-person collaboration and communication that the office affords. A survey carried out by Resume Builder finds that there are many benefits for the company and employees’ output by coming into the office. With reasons including improved communication, increased creativity and productivity as well as a focus on company culture.
However, although employers may be keen to get people back into the office, it’s a very different viewpoint for employees who are keen to retain their WFH setups.
Why do people not want to return to the office?
There are various reasons why employees are happy at home, but the crux of the issue is time. People don’t want to return to the office because they enjoy the extra time and flexibility that working from home gives them.
Many individuals have become accustomed to the increased autonomy they have over their working hours, remote work is a lot more flexible than office-based work. People are able to fit their life around their work by quickly being able to pop out for a doctor's appointment or fitting in the school run.
When the pandemic hit and the workforce shifted to remote-first, the majority of people were astounded by the jolt in extra time they had by skipping out on the commute.
Suddenly people were given multiple hours in the day to use how they pleased, and understandably they didn’t want to give these up. A twenty-second stroll to the second bedroom cum office is infinitely more enjoyable than battling the London rush hour commute on a drizzly winter morning.
Aside from time, there are other benefits to the flexible lifestyle; employees also save money when working remotely. A recent 2022 study commissioned by the London Heritage Quarter business improvement district found that 46% of individuals were put off by high commuter fares when it comes to returning to the office.
What Motivates People To Return To Office
When battling with rising costs of living and people who have become used to an easier lifestyle, trying to use authority to get people back into the office is not going to be successful.
“73% of employees are vocal about the fact that they need a better reason to go in than just company expectations.” Microsoft
Although some companies have brought in rigid hybrid work schedules to make people come in a minimum number of days, it is probably always going to be better to use a more flexible hybrid work model that focuses on motivating rather than forcing.
Link To Read More About Hybrid Work Companies Examples
Humans are social creatures, we desire connection. Companies can harness this and turn it into an advantage to incentivise employees back into the office. Connecting with colleagues is a key motivation for working in person. 84% of employees would be encouraged to come into the office if they can socialise with colleagues. People are motivated to come into the office to build relationships with others.
Companies introducing hybrid work that are struggling with empty offices will need to focus on the social desires of humans. Let’s look at 9 different ideas to lure people back in.
How To Encourage Staff Back Into The Office
1. Social Events
As well as providing a reason for people to come in, social events also help rebuild a company culture, that could well have been lost in the pandemic.
Social events help boost employee relationships by being a conduit for people to get to know each other outside of formal meetings and email chains.
Some great ideas for company bonding sessions could be a breakfast event, a themed party for Halloween or Easter, employee book clubs, or a team cooking lesson, the list is endless!
But social events don’t have to be planned in advance, they could be informal catchups over coffee or an invitation to lunch instigated by the department manager. Get your hybrid managers involved in the plan to get people back in, training them in the importance of social connection to boost employee morale.
2. Child Care
Employees with children are likely among those who are more resistant to return to the office when it makes their life harder to juggle child care.
Provide a solution for them by introducing childcare facilities at work or if that’s not an option, consider helping with childcare costs or making allowances on working hours to fit around school runs.
Hybrid work is the future and the key takeaway is flexibility for both employees and employers, learn to work together with your employees and help make their lives easier to allow them to perform their jobs at their best.
3. Pet Friendly
As well as being a great photo opportunity for social media, pet-friendly offices could be another way to lure employees back to work.
If not everyone is on board with the idea of a wagging office, perhaps designating specific areas as dog-friendly zones could be a solution for the best of both worlds, a busier office and happier employees.
4. Benefits & Perks
As stated previously, one of the primary reasons that people are keen to stay working from home is expensive commuter fares.
Combat this by offering to pay part or all of their transport costs as a perk for coming into the office. Although this may seem like an extra cost for the company, it always works out cheaper to invest in retaining employees than the expense of having to recruit and onboard a neverending cycle of new hires.
Another great perk to motivate people could be through company wellness perks like exercise classes or, for larger organisations, on-site gyms.
A relatively low-cost option, hiring a corporate personal trainer to come in once a week to give a group exercise class is a fantastic way to combine wellness with a social bonding event as well.
It could be anything from yoga, or Zumba, to functional fitness. Get employees excited by running a survey and taking a vote on the most popular fitness activity.
6. Gift Of Time
If your employees are clearly stressed about long hours spent commuting, communicate with them that hybrid work models can cater to flexible hours or even shorter hours provided the work gets done.
A company-wide policy could be introduced to allow people to come in slightly later, avoiding the rush hour or it can be done on a case-by-case basis depending on roles and responsibilities.
7. Food Is The Way To The Heart
Focusing on using the social connection to encourage people into the office can be done inadvertently by using food.
Large organisations have long realised the benefit of providing onsite canteens to get people to work in the office, but now they are turning these canteens into stylish restaurants where coworkers come together for an enjoyable experience.
Google is famous for the luxury dining services they offer to employees, and the Mountain View headquarters offers over 30 dining locations for its staff!
Be sure to keep prices subsidised or if possible, free for employees as an incentive to get people to come in. There’s no point offering catered lunch if it’s still cheaper for them to eat at home.
8. Hybrid Office Design
It’s not just what’s going on at the office that provides people with a reason to come in. Hybrid office design also plays a huge part. Some individuals might live in rather chaotic surroundings and choose to come into the office to get their deep work done.
For these people, consider introducing focused workstations with noise-cancelling booths or headphones, dual monitors and ergonomically friendly chairs.
9. Office Bar/Office Cafe
Going further than just offering catered food, turn the office into a social destination for co-workers by creating a dedicated office bar.
A leading beverage company, Lion, based in Sydney’s CBD has an extremely popular office bar where employees can invite their friends along for free drinks on a sunny afternoon. The concept has proved extremely popular with the bar becoming one of the most exclusive places in Sydney to secure an invite!
There are extensive options to consider if you are looking for ways to get people back into the office. Although most of them will require some investment, there are cheaper options too making it an achievable goal for any company.
The potential returns on investment should outweigh any initial costs of trying to get people back into the office, with increased retention, boosted productivity and a happier workforce altogether.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.