How to Encourage Employees to Return to the Office and Revive Office Culture


Nicole Maltrotti


May 24, 2022

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Here’s the hard truth: Some employees don’t want to go back to the office.

Have you ever wondered why?

Your employees don’t reject your return-to-office strategy because they hate the office. It’s because they’re worried they’ll have to give up all the perks of remote work.

In fact, when Britian R. asked her followers for their preference, around 40% of more than 28,000 responders said they prefer hybrid.

This informal poll shows that 11,503 people prefer a hybrid work model over completely working from home or completely going back to the office.

In other words, your employees don’t mind having the option of going into an office. What they dislike is the idea of losing the ability to work from anywhere, at any time.

If you’re struggling to get your employees to return to the office, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy, the way you’ve communicated it to your employees, and the office perks you offer.

Explain the why behind returning to the office

Tell your employees WHY you want to reopen the office to get their buy-in. Otherwise, they’re going to think it’s just a power move.

Gallup found that better transparency and communication from org leaders during the pandemic improved employee engagement. But that engagement plummets as soon as you stop communicating.

Be transparent with your employees with a return-to-work memo and a town hall meeting that explains the motivation behind returning to the office.

This is a template for a return-to-work memo.

Include reasons like:

  • X% of our team has shared that they feel lonely
  • X% of our team find collaboration easier in the office

Also, remind your team that they’re not losing anything. Hybrid work isn’t a complete return to the office—and in most cases, hybrid offices are still remote-first.

Turn your return to office strategy into a conversation, not a demand

After you explain why you want your employees back together in person, collect feedback with a survey.

Gathering feedback after you’ve explained why you’re asking employees to return shows your team that you’re involving them in key decisions. Plus, you’ll gather valuable data that you can use on future initiatives that aim to make the office environment more enjoyable and accommodating.

We’ve built a return to work survey to get you started.

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4 Ways to Make the Office More Welcoming

Once you know what your employees will miss about working remotely, you can create an office environment they’ll look forward to.

1. Introduce new benefits

Don’t expect your employees to return to 2019 habits—2022 is called the “new normal” for a reason.

Introduce benefits for people returning to your office like a transportation stipend, childcare stipend, or caregiver stipend. Your employees can’t come to the office if they need to take care of a child or a family member.

Apart from stipends, you can also set up fun activities in the form of Office Extras like office lunches, pets, and VR headsets. That way, your employees can learn about and book in-office perks before they even come in.

Office Extras give your employees something at the office to look forward to.

The point is, no matter your budget, use benefits and perks to show your employees that you’ve got their backs—and that your goal isn’t to make their lives harder.

2. Optimize office space for both efficiency and fun

Your office space isn’t a perk—yet. Going back to working in a cubicle isn’t exciting to anyone.

Turn your office into an exciting perk by rethinking your office space and designing a space that encourages your employees to be more productive but also have fun.

For example, make your office a more pet-friendly environment so that your employees can bring their pets to work. During the lockdown, 23 million households adopted at least one pet, potentially to reduce stress. Don’t force your employees to leave their pets—your offices will stay empty.

Also consider creating an activity-based workspace (ABW), where each area in your office is optimized for completing a specific task.

An ABW doesn’t have to be a huge expense. You can often repurpose existing office space and equipment by grouping your space into different zones based on the different types of work your team does.

This is an example of an activity-based workspace layout.

You have more space now that not everyone is going to be in the office at the same time. Rethink how you use that space by turning parts of your office into quiet rooms, collaboration spaces, cafeterias, huddle rooms, and more.

3. Organize in-person brainstorming sessions and social events

One thing workers missed when working from home was collaboration. In one study, Buffer found that remote workers struggle with collaboration, communication, and loneliness.

To keep your hybrid team focused, organize in-person brainstorming sessions, working sessions, and social events to highlight the social aspect of working from the office.

Brainstorming sessions don’t need to be formal—get comfortable with your team!

In-person working sessions encourage team bonding and promote creativity and innovation. And your workers get a chance to form meaningful connections with each other by working on different projects together.

Social events such as team lunches, drinks after work, trivia nights, or team retreats can reduce loneliness while also encouraging camaraderie and teamwork.

4. Create a hybrid work schedule focused on team needs

Flexibility is great, but structured flexibility is better.

According to WFH Research, more than 70% of workers want to choose when they come into the office and coordinate their office days with coworkers. Invest in a hot desking application so that your employees can book office time and see who else will be coming in that day.

This simple calendar within Slack tells employees who are going to be in the office and where they’ll be.

No one wants to be the only one in the office—what’s the difference between that and working from home?

It’s also a good idea to let your employees choose their in-office hours whenever possible. In our opinion, the best hybrid schedule is set by employees with some input from the managers. Remember, the office is a perk. Making it mandatory might just ruin it for your employees.

Use Officely to Encourage Camaraderie and Offer Perks

Officely tells your team who’s in the office through the Slack channel of your choice.

You canuse it to announce office events, show your team who’s bringing pets, let your team book yoga sessions or lunches, and more. All of which incentivize employees to increase their office attendance.

Book a demo to see how you can create a people-first office culture with transparency and communication.

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Nicole Maltrotti

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