5 Strategies to Encourage Employees to Come Back to the Office
With hybrid workplace arrangements firmly in place at most companies, getting people into the office remains a top priority—and for some, a challenge.
Company culture can be a big draw for employees, but simply using the idea of company culture to lure employees into the office without actively nurturing it won’t get you far.
Rather, companies should focus on the enduring reasons people come to the office—socialization, collaboration, and more—and build cultural initiatives around these elements.
Overall, the reality is that your efforts will go further by proactively building a strong in-office culture (rather than leaning heavily on employees to build it themselves) and by offering features employees want but the company currently lacks.
While it may be out of reach for many organizations, on-site childcare has profound benefits for the workforce and workplace. And initiatives like launching a pet-friendly policy and encouraging employees to get active can be powerful ways to draw employees back to the office, too.
Below, we’ll look at five ways to encourage employees back to the office by improving in-office culture overall, and making the office a place your employees actually want to work.
Related content: When the “Workplace” Isn’t Just a Place: 3 Ways to Build Strong Workplace Culture on Hybrid Teams
1. Encourage employees to socialize with company-sponsored events and initiatives
The physical workspace has always served as a space for informal socialization, and that remains true post-pandemic.
According to Eden’s 2021 Workforce Sentiment Survey, the top reason employees want to return to the office is for socialization. Employees report missing the opportunity to catch up with colleagues, grab a coffee, or engage in pre-meeting chatter.
Yet an inadvertent result of the hybrid workplace is that employees often show up in person on different days. As a result, teams still end up interacting through Slack and Zoom, and few employees get the chance to catch up in person.
You can boost a cohesive, friendly culture at your company by channeling efforts and budget into spaces and programs that support socialization. Consider events like a weekly catered lunch to promote in-office work on a particular day, or make sure that your all-hands meetings always fall on a day when the majority of employees are in the office.
Companies can also promote an “invite a colleague to work” day program, using tools like Eden’s Desk Booking software. This enables employees to send an invite to co-workers and include a personal note, as well as get alerts when specific employees make a desk reservation. Employees can easily view their outstanding invitations and respond accordingly, which makes it easier to coordinate coming into the office on the same days as their friends and close team members.
2. Use intentional team building to boost connection and collaboration
Vibrant workplace cultures are seemingly effortlessly collaborative. And while it’s clear we can collaborate working from home, it’s hard to capture the flow state that comes from doing so in person.
Make the workplace a productive and enjoyable place to collaborate by providing shared workspaces that are comfortable and equipped with the furniture and tools employees need for success. This means plenty of conference rooms and collaboration spaces, and the ability to pre-book spaces for coworking or brainstorming sessions using a meeting room scheduling tool.
To further build collaboration into your workplace culture in a more deliberate way, consider scheduling regular on-site team building activities that will benefit team collaboration in the short- and long-term. Team leads and department heads can work with HR to develop surveys to find out what kind of team building events employees most want to see.
Aim to schedule a team building activity once every 4-8 weeks to build a steady tempo, all the while strengthening interpersonal relationships and bringing employees together at the office.
3. Offer on-site childcare 1-2 days per week
A core reason that people have embraced remote work is the flexibility it provides to manage the logistics between work and home. For working parents with commutes, for example, the time spent getting to the office and home each day means less time with their kids.
While it remains a rare perk, corporate-sponsored daycare is nothing new. It’s been around since the 70’s and some of the most well known people-centric companies, like Patagonia, have made it a central offering of their benefit package, and an unshakeable proof point for their family values-based company culture.
For many companies, full-time onsite daycare isn’t a realistic investment, as it’s certainly not a cheap one. If you’d like to offer this benefit, try crunching the numbers to see if the company could swing just one or two days a week. Rest assured it will be a big draw for employees to come into the office—it may help boost retention, too. One study by Gartner found that larger organizations could boost employee retention by more than 20% by repurposing office spaces as onsite childcare facilities.
4. Promote employee wellness with on-site workout classes
One big perk of the work from home orders during the pandemic was the fact that it made it easier to fit regular exercise into our everyday lives.
With more time on their hands thanks to a non-existent commute, and the flexibility to exercise when and how they liked, many employees created and stuck to new workout routines.
Promote these healthy habits with employees while encouraging them back to the office by offering regular on-site workout classes. Companies can sponsor yoga classes, tai chi sessions, bootcamp workouts, and more.
You can further incentivize employees to work (and work out) from the office by providing an additional wellness stipend for each on-site fitness activity an employee takes part in.
For example, if an employee participates in an office-sponsored fitness initiative X times a month (and works from the office on those days), they get an extra $40 as a wellness stipend to use toward their fitness expenses.
5. Become a pet-friendly workplace
Transitioning back to the office doesn’t just impact your employees themselves.For pet owners, concern for how their pet will handle their absence is a big factor in coming back to the office.
One study reported that 89% of employees said it’s important for them to be able to continue spending time with their pets during the workday, and two-thirds said they would bring their pets to the office if allowed.
Pets also tend to bring people together, providing a shared point of focus that makes it easy to connect and bond. Companies can encourage employees back to the office and boost connection amongst team members with a pet-friendly office policy.
Consider starting small, with a few bring-your-pet-to-work days per month. Ensure employees sign a pet contract that mandates all pets are fully vaccinated and free of fleas, ticks, or illness. And, include a section that asks employees to attest to the fact that their pet has never shown signs of aggression to people or other pets.
Some organizations choose to limit the number of pets on site at a given time, or create a systematic way of pre-registering when pets will be in the office. If that is a priority, desk booking software can make it easy to manage the number of pets on-site, as administrators simply need to set up a number of desks designated as pet-friendly.
Company culture can be a powerful magnet in bringing employees back to the office, but only when deliberately leveraged.
Culture is felt in big ways and small—and this means that building a strong in-office culture will likely be an ongoing process of small and large initiatives. Companies must remain flexible and open to feedback and iteration if they are serious about building a culture that draws employees in.