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When the world shut down in the spring of 2020, almost every white-collar business transitioned to remote work. It was a mass exodus to working from home. And while many businesses have thrived during this transition, others have found it to be more difficult than they thought. The tricky part is that most employees have fallen in love with the flexibility of remote work. Trying to get them to return to the office can prove tricky.
The benefits of being in the office
From an owner’s perspective, there are benefits associated with both remote working arrangements and traditional office-based arrangements. The perks of employing remote workers have been explored rather extensively by this point. There’s no need to spend much time rehashing those ideas. But somewhere in the midst of all the noise, it’s as if many companies have totally forgotten the value of having employees physically in the same office. This includes benefits like:
- Easier collaboration: Communication is a lot easier when you can walk down the hall and pop your head into someone’s office versus sending an email and waiting several hours for a response.
- Stronger culture: As you know, today’s employees are all about culture. They want to work for organizations that care about more than the bottom line. They want to feel like they’re a part of something healthy and meaningful. It’s much easier to create this sort of atmosphere in a physical office.
- Focused environment: When employees work from home, they’re exposed to many distractions. From barking dogs and screaming toddlers to the PlayStation in the living room and the warm bed down the hall. Getting long periods of uninterrupted work is rare. In the office, you’re able to intentionally design a more focused environment that should lead to greater productivity.
- Work-life separation: Everyone wants to talk about work-life balance and all of the ways that working from home makes it possible. However, when an employee works from home, there’s almost no work-life separation (which leads to burnout). By getting employees to return to the office, you create some healthy division that will ultimately make them happier.
To be honest, these benefits only scratch the surface. The reality is that, while remote working has its cost-cutting advantages, having your team in the same physical office has its perks as well. It’s up to you to figure out which arrangement works best for your business.
Four ways to make coming back to the office easier
You might be clear on the fact that a return to the office is the best thing for your business. But, how do you convince people who’ve fallen in love with the flexibility and convenience of working from home to actually get dressed and commute back into the office on a daily basis?
Here are several suggestions:
1. Optimize for comfort
People don’t want to get dressed up in a suit or be required to wear professional attire every day of the week. Your employees have grown accustomed to wearing t-shirts and jeans at home. You don’t have to embrace that level of casualness. But, think about ways to relax your dress code so that people don’t feel so stiff.
2. Relax scheduling
You should also relax your scheduling some. While you may have operated with traditional nine-to-five hours in the past, this is a great time to implement a flex scheduling arrangement that allows people to choose their own hours (within reason). Some people would much prefer to come in early and leave early. Others would rather sleep in and work later into the evening. If you’re flexible with hours, people will be much happier.
3. Offer a hybrid model
Rather than quitting remote working cold turkey, transition into a hybrid model. People can start working in the office three days per week and remotely the other two (or whatever arrangement is best for your business). This allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds.
4. Focus on personal connections
The ability to forge personal connections with coworkers is one of the most compelling aspects of working in a physical office. Make sure you’re creating an environment that’s conducive to healthy interpersonal relationships. People will be much happier about coming into the office when they feel like they have deep connections with their coworkers. You can do this through team bonding, catered meals and other activities
Set your business up for success
In hindsight, the work-from-home migration was an inevitable transition. It was simply accelerated in a concentrated period of time with circumstances that nobody could have predicted. And while your employees have fallen in love with remote work, this is ultimately your decision to make. By making it more enticing to return to the office, you can increase retention rates and cause less of an uproar. Good luck!