Should You Bring Employees Back to the Office?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the economy reopens, due to the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases, more and more companies are thinking about bringing workers back to the office. 

A Microsoft study reveals that 50% of business leaders say their company requires — or plans to require — employees to work in person this coming year. Employees, however, aren’t too keen on returning to their office desks. The same report shows that 53% of employees are more likely to put their well-being before their job compared to pre-pandemic times. 

With a majority of employees demanding flexibility, how do you decide which route to take when other factors convince you to bring everyone back? Let’s dig a little deeper. After two years of working remotely, many executives are eager to welcome their employees back on-site, whether they’re ready or not. Here are three of the most important reasons that support returning to the office:

1. Culture and values

To say that it’s challenging to start a new job remotely is putting it mildly. People have become used to immersing themselves in the workplace culture by observing how employees interact.

Unfortunately, for those who are onboarded remotely, transitioning to the job comes with many growing pains. They didn’t get to see the culture at work — nor did they get the opportunity to learn through face-to-face supervision or feedback for their newbie questions. As a result, they have to navigate and learn more things on their own.

In general, personal interactions are pivotal for new hires. Compared to the dozens of virtual meetings they attended, they’ll learn a whole lot more from both their observations and in-person conversations with their colleagues. 

It’s also easy to lose sense of your mission in the absence of personal interactions with teammates. Working in person promotes more frequent engagement, helping coworkers to stay aligned with the company’s core values. 

Related: Will Company Culture Suffer From the Rise of Remote Work?

2. Collaboration and productivity

Working remotely also comes with collaboration and productivity setbacks. For instance, colleagues can’t see when a teammate is struggling, so they aren’t able to offer immediate assistance.

Remote work requires checkpoints, alignments and collaborations to be scheduled or done through email or chat. This additional effort can often lead to interrupted work as opposed to throwing questions in person and getting quick answers.

Working on-site also allows fresh ideas and innovation to move along faster. These things can significantly impact an employee’s growth and, subsequently, the company’s success.

3. Purpose and satisfaction

Companies and employees can also benefit from working in the office by having a sense of a shared mission. Being around driven people working toward the same goal reinforces the same level of commitment and drive in everyone.

Employees feel more satisfied with their jobs when they feel more connected with their colleagues. Believing in the goal of the company gives employees a sense of purpose, which is far more valuable than just a paycheck.

Tips for The Great Return

It’s no secret that people have a sharp bias toward remote work. But there are practical reasons why executives want employees to return to the office. If you’re afraid you might lose your employees when you call them back to the office, here are some tips to make it work:

Reward employees 

Employees want to feel appreciated, and giving rewards is a fantastic way to grant them that experience. Thankfully, you can show employee appreciation in many ways. 

For instance, you can give each of them personalized welcome gifts when they return. You can also feature top employees in your newsletter or company blog,or give handwritten notes to thank employees for their invaluable work. Simple things, like lunches and bowling, may also be rewarding enough to encourage more employees to head back to the office. 

Allow remote working days

If the majority of your workforce prefers remote work, you might want to consider meeting them halfway. You could offer a hybrid model wherein employees are allowed remote working days, too.

According to statistics, 70% of employees want to continue working remotely on either a part-time or full-time basis.

As workforces become increasingly digital-based, it only makes sense to adopt a hybrid work model. Many see it as a win-win strategy for companies that seek to return to traditional practices and employees demanding more flexibility. 

Give them something to look forward to 

Revamping your office can also be a great strategy to encourage your employees to come back. Here are some ideas worth considering:

  • Add new furniture and facilities: Many employees have become used to their comfy at-home work setups, so try to bring that vibe to your office. Replace old chairs with new ones, bring in better desks, and add new facilities, like breakout spaces. Make sure to keep workstations comfortable yet conducive to productive work.

  • Keep workspaces clean and tidy: People have become more conscious about hygiene and sanitation since the pandemic. So, ensure the cleanliness and upkeep of the office at all times. Invest in professional cleaning services to keep workspaces sanitized and smelling good. 

  • Offer other perks: Think of other benefits you can offer your in-office employees, like better parking spaces or commute allowances. Get creative, and offer benefits that provide real-life value to your employees.

Related: Pros and Cons of Remote Work: Will Your Employees Adapt?

How to maintain a productive remote working environment

Whether your employees are working in the office or at home, it’s imperative to ensure their productivity. 

If you’re going to implement a hybrid work setup, ask employees to create dedicated home workspaces. Their workspaces should be comfortable and sustainable, especially if you’re wanting this setup to last a long time. 

Also, your remote teams should be properly equipped. Continue to utilize video conferencing apps, like Zoom and Google Meet, and messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Lastly, don’t forget to check in on your remote employees regularly. It may seem a bit different at first, but once you make it a habit, it should feel normal in no time.

Office or remote, keep in mind that your employees need your support to be productive and satisfied with their work. You can accomplish this by setting clear rules and cascading changes whenever they appear.

Also, remember that the pandemic is not yet over. Employees still feel anxious and uncertain about the future, so it’s important to think about their concerns and welfare before making decisions.

Related: The Importance of Returning to the Office After Remote Working