All around the globe, organizations are well underway with bringing employees back to the office. But the process isn’t always a simple one: after two years of remote work, employees have become accustomed to a new way of working, and they’re not quite ready to give it up completely.
It’s not that employees are unwilling to return to the office. On the contrary, the majority of them actually want to in some capacity. They just don’t want to return to the office in the way they used to.
Getting employee buy-in to come back to the office requires you to rethink your organization’s relationship with your workspace and to ensure it aligns with the desires and expectations of your team.
The 5 Things Employees Want in Their Return to the Office
Bringing employees back to the office requires a tactful and strategic approach. Your people have proven they can be productive and successful when working remotely. So, in a sense, the ability to work remotely is often—and fairly—perceived as a privilege they’ve earned.
Revoking that privilege entirely will almost certainly create friction, pose negative impacts on employee engagement, and potentially even spur retention issues.
Instead, it’s important to reimagine your workspace as a place where people want to be rather than just somewhere they’re forced to be. And that comes down to five key factors.
1. Redefining the Purpose of the Office
While many employees are eager to return to the office, the majority still don’t want to come back in a full-time capacity.
Rather, they want access to a workspace when and how they need it while still maintaining the autonomy to work remotely as it suits them.
In light of that fact, there’s a strong chance the return to the office will take the form of “shift work”—having certain employees in on certain days of the week or on an as-needed basis—rather than having all come in full time.
This puts the onus on you, as an employer, to reimagine your office space as a purpose-driven place where people can collaborate and connect on an as-needed basis rather than one where they’re mandated to be.
As a result, though, you may be able to downsize your workspace and eliminate long-term traditional office leases—in turn, cutting the costs associated with running it.
2. Offering Spatial Diversity
The rise of remote work allowed employees the freedom and flexibility to:
- Independently evaluate how best to do their jobs
- Identify the environments in which they thrive
- Shape their approach to work according to when, where, and how they’re most focused and productive
For example, they found they were able to work outside with their coffee in the morning to get their day underway, transition to their couches to be comfortable to end the afternoon, and take breaks to do things that re-energize their minds when they find themselves in a slump.
Because of this, employees now find it harder to get work done in the typical spaces their workplace provides.
The concept of spatial diversity—offering a variety of spaces designed to suit every workstyle and mood—is one of the keys to bringing employees back to work.
- Hard Spaces: Dedicated workspaces, otherwise known as “hard spaces,” offer people a personalized headquarters for their workdays.
- Soft Spaces: Optimal for informal meetings, colleague catch-ups, and comfortable work time, “soft spaces,” like lounge areas equipped with tables and comfortable furniture, allow people to emulate the variety they enjoy at home.
- Private Areas: Whether it’s required to make a personal phone call, connect with a client to discuss confidential matters, or simply take a moment to digest the key takeaways from a meeting, these areas emulate the unparalleled privacy available to those working from home.
- Communal Space: One of the fundamental benefits of spatial diversity is its focus on the importance of communal areas where people can socialize, network, and connect with one another in a casual and impromptu way.
- Areas of Reprieve: It’s important to offer spaces intended for rest and reprieve that allow people to imitate the re-energizing moments they experience when working from home.
- Meeting and Collaboration Areas: Employees will require dedicated areas to connect and collaborate on-demand, making dedicated meeting spaces an important piece of the office puzzle.
Restructuring your workspace can be a massive undertaking, but it’s vital in facilitating the work experience your employees want. If you don’t have the time, resources, budget, or bandwidth to rework your space, a turnkey flexible office space might be the answer.
3. Facilitating Socialization, Networking, and Mentorship
In a world where many roles can be worked from virtually anywhere, the true value of the office is as much in the people as it is in the place.
After all, for many employees, isolation and loneliness are among the most challenging aspects of remote work. So, it’s no surprise that data from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Special Report shows that:
- 85% of employees would be motivated to go into the office to rebuild team bonds
- 84% of employees would be motivated to go into the office if they could socialize with coworkers
- 74% of employees would go to the office more frequently if they knew their “work friends” were there
- 73% of employees would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there
But it’s not just about socialization and networking—in-office work allows for closer and more streamlined mentorship, which is incredibly important, especially to younger generations looking to grow in their careers.
4. Creating New In-Person Rituals
Understanding our inherent need for human connection—and its importance in inspiring people to return to the office—it will be vital to design experiences that generate social capital, rebuild bonds, and bring people back together in new ways.
This can be as simple as scheduling weekly lunches or workouts together as a team.
At And-Co, our team can often be found sharing a meal together at our in-house restaurant, NOX, or taking a pilates class at The Well.
While these experiences will look a bit different for every team and organization, creating new rituals that align with the wants and needs of your people will be a powerful tool in generating enthusiasm and buy-in when bringing employees back to the office.
5. Using the Workplace to Enhance Quality of Life
In order to transform the office from a place where employees have to be into one where they want to be, you need to consider the ways in which your workspace can be used to enhance their overall quality of life and align with their values.
Your office has the opportunity to provide your employees with a hospitality experience that makes them feel welcome and engaged in their workdays.
And-Co was built in the spirit of creating a workspace that enhances the lives of the people who work in our space, and we do so by providing:
- Community events and professional development sessions
- Networking and socialization opportunities
- In-house wellness facilities and restaurants
- Elevated design
- Curated art throughout our space
- Convenience and turnkey amenities
- Support to local non-profits and charitable organizations
Successfully bringing employees back to the office—and ensuring they’re happy about being there—means reimagining your workspace as a place where people want to be rather than somewhere they’re forced to spend 40 hours per week.
So, if you’re in search of a modern, full-service, and flexible workspace and community that will create enthusiasm among employees to come back to the office, book a tour of And-Co today.