September 22, 2022

Why Insisting on Return to the Office May Not Be a Good Idea, and Is There a Better Way?

Once the Coronavirus-induced restrictions had been lifted, many business leaders were adamant about requesting their employees to return to the office (RTO), ignoring the fact that the workplace perception had changed irrevocably. More importantly, they tend to ignore their employees’ wish to retain the work flexibility they enjoyed during the pandemic.

While the need to gather your employees in a common working space can be understandable in some cases, you need to accept that a traditional office will never be the preferred working space for many.

So instead of insisting on a full-time return to the office, look at how some renowned companies are struggling to implement their RTO plans and try to learn from their mistakes.

RTO Full Time May Be the Mission Impossible 

Tesla’s founder was vocal and determined when he insisted on a mandatory return to the office. However, this company failed to supply the essentials to workers in their branch in Fremont, California. These workers stepped into their office in June only to find out about the shortage of desks and chairs. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, some of the employees had to park their cars off-site due to parking places shortage. 

The Boeing managers seem to struggle with getting the message across. As some of their employees stated that the return to the office memo is unclear, and they believe they would leave the company if this policy applied to them.

Besides offering inadequately equipped offices and confusing RTO policies, you probably shouldn’t follow the example of the Starbucks interim CEO, who was prepared to beg employees to start working from the office full-time again.

One thing you can do is to recognize that things have changed and that remote and hybrid work are here to stay. And to plan your return to the office focusing on these work models. 

The statistic shows that only 20% of IBM employees tend to work from the office for three or more days in a week, while it’s not expected that this rate will go over 60% ever again. But the CIO of this business giant seems to be at peace with this prediction. 

He states that the company learned what the new normal is and strives to adapt to changed circumstances.

Embrace the “New Normal”

Understanding that the perception of the workplace has changed forever may help you change the approach to RTO. Don’t impose mandatory full-time work from the office because this decision can backfire on you. Employees forced to return to the office unwillingly may start voting with their feet, searching for a more flexible and supportive workplace. 

If you want to see your workers come to the office gladly, adapt to their changing needs, and create optimal hybrid work conditions. Also, try to create events that would convince your employees to commute to the office and share the physical space with their colleagues more often. So instead of ordering your employees to work from the office full time, take the thoughtful and data-based approach to offer your employees the opportunity to choose when to work from the office. 

For example, you can use a calendar and scheduling to let employees know when their favorite coworkers plan to work from the office so that they can join them and spend quality time together. Deploying advanced software for employee monitoring can also be an effective way to determine the occasions when employees tend to be more productive working from the office compared to working from home.

Besides relying on digital solutions, here are several steps you can take to convince your employees to start working from the office more often.

Identify Motivating Moments

Use the data collected and employee feedback to determine when it’s crucial for employees to gather and collaborate in a shared physical workspace. For example, your business may benefit from the in-person collaboration of your different teams when it comes to completing critical tasks.

Once you start using the employee tracker in office and remote-based computers, you’ll see what tasks require focused alone time and those that get completed easier with office-based team collaboration.

You can use employee performance reports to identify office events that make them more productive. Analyze all this data to see what works for you and what’s not that effective, and focus on creating more motivating moments that may make your employees work from the office more frequently.

Create Incentives

Once you’ve identified when your team benefits from in-person work the most, create appealing choices to attract employees to the office. You can organize weekly learning sessions, motivating employees who rarely work from the office to come by offering a list of topics they may find interesting. Gathering your employees around these sessions can improve interpersonal relationships and collaboration.

You can also ask your remote employees to join office-based brainstorming sessions or social events virtually. By doing this, you’ll develop a sense of belonging to the team, which is so important for remote workers’ engagement and well-being. 

Another excellent way to promote the return to the office is through support and guidance. Managers can check calendars and schedule feedback meetings on the same day when new employees are working from the office so that they can deliver feedback in person. This can be a crucial step toward building trustful relationships with onboarding employees. 

Test This Strategy and Adjust it to Employees’ Needs

Once you devise a basic plan, try it out across teams to test its effectiveness. Then pay attention to your employees’ reactions to these incentives and take their feedback seriously. In this way, you’ll be able to adjust your RTO strategy to fit employees’ current needs.

Work flexibility is something that most employers won’t give up now that they’ve experienced its benefits. The good news is that you can analyze employee monitoring data on performance and productivity in and out of the office and create powerful incentives to attract them to work on-site when it best works for them, without feeling forced or blackmailed.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}