As vaccination rates grow, more and more businesses are lifting COVID-19 restrictions and are coming back to the office. However, recent studies have revealed striking statics:
- Only 10 percent of employees want to come back full time
- 39 percent would consider quitting if their employer isn’t flexible about remote work (49 percent among millennials and Gen Z)
- 41 percent of employees would take a pay cut to work remotely part of the time.
These numbers indicate that businesses that don’t adjust to the new preferences of employees, will face headwinds retaining talent.
What if the nature of your business doesn’t let you completely switch to remote work?
I’m CEO of a Support-as-a-Service company that provides customer support to other businesses. We follow the PCI DSS (data security standard – auth.) protocol, which doesn’t allow some of our teams to work remotely. Handling sensitive customers’ information in financial or medical establishments often requires employees’ presence in the office.
Just like many other executives, I had to generate a solution that persuades newcomers to choose us over remote work options and retains current employees. As a firm believer in carrots over sticks, I came up with the following recommendations.
66 percent of people have health concerns returning to the office. Make sure your workspace addresses them: incentivize employees for getting vaccinated, enforce protocols of safe socializing. Even though people are vaccinated, they may crave more private space. Hand sanitizer stations and nightly cleaning of surfaces will be the new must-haves of the post-COVID office.
Reimagine the office space
If you want people to sacrifice at least five hours a week to commute, make the office worth it. Go the extra mile and create an inspirational space for collaboration.
Even before COVID-19 hit, my company decided to transform our office into an art gallery. We invited local artists to paint the walls with murals. It made our team fall in love with space and showed results soon after. The employee retention rate increased by 16 percent and post-COVID, over 20 percent of the team wanted to return to the office full-time.
Art, as well as scenic views and natural light, have been proven to increase employee’s productivity and well-being. If you want employees to come to the office, make it irresistible.
Host regular social events
When people say they miss working in an office, most of them— 73 percent — actually miss socializing with their colleagues.
If you want to motivate your employees to come to the office, organize social interactions they were deprived of for over a year. Coming back to the office is a chance to start new rituals and relaunch old traditions: Friday happy hours, morning coffees, watching sports, BBQ picnics, or trivia games — make your office a hang-out spot that brings people together and promotes collaboration.
Reevaluate office perks
Working from home provides people with more free time, but also comes with chores like cooking or cleaning. While ready-made lunches and free yoga classes in the office don’t seem like a big deal, 10 percent of people actually miss those benefits.
Focus on a bigger picture: 64 percent of people miss having fewer distractions in the office. Many workers have to share their living spaces with roommates, family and pets.
Rearranging workspaces in a way that allows employees to focus on their duties and work peacefully will be the biggest perk of all.
Be a role model
You can’t persuade people to come to an office while working from a tropical island. Set an example and visit the office even when you can work from home. A Harvard Business Review study found that managers who stay later in the office not only motivate their employees to work more but also have a five percent higher engagement level in the team.
To add value to an office experience, organize more one-on-one in-person meetings to discuss your colleagues’ success and address their questions. The same study indicated that employees who have twice as many one-on-ones with their manager are 67 percent less likely to be disengaged at work.
While a hybrid workplace is the future of the post-COVID era, nothing can fully replace in-person interaction. If your business fully depends on it or has strict security protocols in place, these steps will motivate people to come into the office and feel appreciated.