How to Make Your Primarily Remote Employees Feel Comfortable and Included When They Visit the Office
As of summer 2022, more than half of working Americans have permission to work from home at least once a week, and more than one-third can do so permanently.
You’ve heard about the many perks of remote work and the hybrid workplace model already, so we won’t repeat them here. However, the lack of in-person exposure for workers who spend most or all of their time working remotely can cause a bit of culture shock when they come into the office—especially if it’s for the first time.
Whether it’s for a large company event, a big meeting, or even just a monthly team meetup, it can be jarring for these employees to feel comfortable and productive in a setting they’re not totally accustomed to.
To maximize the in-person comfort of predominantly-remote employees, make their journeys to the office a positive, productive experience, and strengthen your company culture overall, follow these tips.
1. Set recommended in-office days
In the world of flex working, employees will visit the office whenever they see fit, with some coming in every day and some swinging by only when needed.
To cement some sort of structure, consider implementing an “in-office day,” with the expectation that employees who are in proximity to the office will come in on those days. This approach makes it easier to plan team outings, large meetings, and social events, and will give your employees who come in rarely or are from out of town a clear sense of which days they should plan to visit the office.
Without a suggested or required day, remote team members might come in without coordinating with their colleagues, and may show up to an empty office. This doesn’t exactly solve for the feelings of team disconnect that come from being separated from coworkers. Having that key day (and an anchor meeting or event to encourage employees to come in) can make all the difference, especially when it comes to making primarily remote employees feel more comfortable working in the office.
For example, at Eden, we have set in-office days on Mondays and Thursdays for our San Francisco-based employees on specific teams. When remote teammates come into town, they know they can expect a full house on those days, and plan their visits accordingly. You can read more about how we approached this in our article on what we learned in our first 100 days of reopening Eden HQ.
Related content: Should You Offer Flexible Work Schedules for Your Team?
2. Host office tours
It should go without saying that most companies have welcomed new hires during the past year and a half.
This means that countless workers visiting their offices might be doing so for the very first time—completely unaware of where their closest colleague sits, where conference rooms are, or where the coffee machine is.
Providing employees with a tour on their first visit can help familiarize newer hires with the office’s facilities and give them the chance to see your company’s culture in action.
These tours can be hosted by HR, a member of your admin team, or even a member of the employees’ org for a more personal touch. This gives employees who are less familiar with your office a chance to check out an area of the office they’ve only ever seen in the background of video calls, chat with a colleague they had been meaning to introduce themselves to in person, and generally feel more comfortable in the space.
And why stop there? If your office is in a walkable area, make a point to show your remote-first employees the local lunch spots, places for an evening drink, or any other noteworthy sites to see like parks, stores, or special landmarks. It’s often a nice gesture to formalize this by coordinating an after-work happy hour, team lunch, or group outing of some kind. This time spent with these employees provides more face time with colleagues in a no-pressure setting, and introduces them to the favorite spots of in-office workers. It makes them feel—justifiably so—like they are truly part of the team.
Related content: When the “Workplace” Isn’t Just a Place: 3 Ways to Build Strong Workplace Culture on Hybrid Teams
3. Write up a wiki
Between meeting new faces, working in a completely different area, and perhaps facing some jet lag from travel, remembering every piece of information about the office and its operations won’t be easy.
To document need-to-know information like office layout, how to book a conference room, and other resources, compile everything onto a company wiki page on everything office-related.
Software like Friday, Confluence, and Guru work as great platforms for providing facts, links, and answers to common questions about how the office operates. Wikis are a great one-stop shop for those new to the office who don’t want to bother their coworkers for an answer to a simple question.
4. Set up desk booking
Imagine coming to the office for the first time: You get there pretty early, and there’s no one at the office yet—and no one at a front desk to greet you.
You have just one question: Where do I sit?
Remote employees traveling to the office will feel painfully awkward not knowing where exactly they should work, as they likely do not have a dedicated desk. So, make it easy for them by communicating where to sit and enabling them to book a desk ahead of time.
With desk booking software, employees can survey the floor plan of the office, see where members of their team are sitting, and book desks near them. And, desk booking tools like Eden allow employees book desks either in advance or on the go, so your remote team members can book a desk as soon as they schedule their trip to the office, or on their way into work. Desk booking software also often comes with features that let employees see which amenities a given desk has (second monitor, standing desk, etc.), as well as what rooms and areas of the office the desk is close to.
Your employees who regularly work from the office probably aren't nervous about coming into work. But, for mostly-remote employees and office newbies, knowing there’s a place waiting for them (and where to find it) as soon as they show up is invaluable.
Related content: What Is Desk Booking Software (And How to Implement It Successfully)
Improving the in-person experience
Traveling (back to) the office comes with an array of possible emotions—excitement, curiosity, nervousness—so making the effort to make everyone who steps through those doors feel welcome ensures these office visits are a productive and positive investment.
Taking steps as simple as providing resources to first-time visitors and having an event or activity planned when they’re in town can help your entire team have an incredible in-office experience, no matter how often they work on-site.