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Should employees be brought back to the office?

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As the economy reopens, due to fewer Covid-19 cases, more companies are considering bringing workers back to the office.

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

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

1. Culture and values

To say that starting a new job remotely is difficult is an understatement. People have become accustomed to immersing themselves in the workplace culture by observing how employees interact.

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

In general, personal interactions are essential for new hires. Compared to the dozens of virtual meetings they have attended, they will learn much more from their observations and in-person conversations with their colleagues.

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

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

2. Collaboration and productivity

Remote work also comes with setbacks in collaboration and productivity. For example, colleagues cannot see when a teammate is in trouble, so they are unable to offer immediate assistance.

Remote work requires checkpoints, lineups, and collaborations to be scheduled or done via email or chat. This extra effort can often result in work disruptions instead of asking questions in person and getting quick answers.

Working on-site also allows new ideas and innovation to progress more quickly. These things can have a significant impact on an employee’s growth and, subsequently, the success of the business.

3. Objective and satisfaction

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

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

Tips for the big comeback

It’s no secret that people have a strong penchant for remote work. But there are practical reasons why leaders want employees to return to the office. If you’re worried about losing 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 offering rewards is a fantastic way to give them that experience. Luckily, you can show employee appreciation in several ways.

For example, 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 can also be rewarding enough to encourage more employees to return to the office.

Allow remote working days

If the majority of your staff prefer remote work, you might want to consider meeting them halfway. You can offer a hybrid model where employees are also allowed to work remotely.

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

As the workforce becomes increasingly digital, it makes sense to embrace a hybrid work model. Many see it as a win-win strategy for companies looking to return to traditional practices and employees asking for more flexibility.

Give them something to look forward to

Rearranging your office can also be a great strategy to keep your employees coming back. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Add new furniture and fixtures: Many employees have become accustomed to their comfortable work-from-home setups, so try to create that vibe in your office. Replace old chairs with new ones, bring in better desks, and add new facilities, like rest areas. Ensure that workstations remain comfortable and conducive to productive work.

  • Keep work areas clean and tidy: People have become more aware of hygiene and sanitation since the pandemic. So, ensure the cleanliness and maintenance of the office at all times. Invest in professional cleaning services to keep workspaces sanitized and smelling great.

  • Offer other benefits: Think about other benefits you can offer your employees in the office, such as better parking spaces or travel allowances. Get creative and offer benefits that bring real value to your employees.

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

How to Maintain a Productive Remote Work Environment

Whether your employees are working in the office or at home, ensuring their productivity is imperative.

If you plan to implement a hybrid work setup, ask employees to create dedicated home workspaces. Their workspaces should be comfortable and durable, especially if you want this setup to last a long time.

In addition, your remote teams must be properly equipped. Keep using video conferencing apps, like Zoom and Google Meet, and messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Finally, don’t forget to check on your remote employees regularly. It might feel a little different at first, but once you make it a habit, it should feel normal in no time.

In the office or remotely, keep in mind that your employees need your support to be productive and satisfied with their work. You can achieve this by setting clear rules and cascading changes whenever they appear.

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

Related: The importance of returning to the office after remote work

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