Should Attendance be Required in the Hybrid Workplace?

Bri Morgaine
November 7, 2022
mandatory office attendance, office attendance, attendance policy, hybrid office attendance,

Over the past year, we've seen the hybrid workplace model continue to grow in popularity—and it's no surprise why.

Hybrid work allows employees the flexibility to work either remotely or from the office, depending on their work preferences, the demands of their personal lives, and the type of role they perform.

And, in addition to creating a work environment that employees have been shown to deeply value and enjoy, hybrid work can benefit companies from a space- and cost-saving perspective (think: reduced office space needs).

Related content: Where Tech Works Report

However, while hybrid work has many benefits, organizations that switch to this model face a unique set of challenges—from adapting their existing HR processes to managing their culture across multiple physical and virtual locations.

One major challenge for many companies? Whether or not to mandate in-office work.

Should you require attendance in a hybrid office? 

The short answer? Maybe.

The slightly-longer answer? It depends on the company, and establishing an office attendance requirement should be a well-thought-out, clearly communicated, intentional decision—rather than just based on the desire to return to business as usual.

Working from the office has huge benefits—and, our Where Tech Works report found that employees do, in fact, want to come into the office for work.

But, an attendance mandate shouldn't just be put in place for the sake of it, without considering the fact that your employees do value their flexibility and may be equally productive while working from home.

What is the best way to approach office attendance? 

As you might have guessed, we don't think there’s a clear right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing an attendance policy for your hybrid team.

We learned in our first 100 days of reopening that attendance policies are tricky and will likely evolve and change.

That said, following these best practices can help you design an approach that makes sense for your company’s specific needs. 

Creating an attendance policy for your hybrid workplace

1. Define why you want employees to return to the office

Remember: Mandatory office attendance should have a purpose.

If a role can be performed well from home, simply requiring employees to come in for the sake of it isn't going to make your team happy.

There are many very good reasons to encourage your team to work from the office—so start by considering why employees should work from the office, and defining which goals matter most to your company.

Is your goal to: 

  • Build stronger company culture overall?
  • Make sure important meetings are held in person? 
  • Give employees the opportunity to learn from and build stronger relationships with managers and leadership?
  • Bring back in-person events?
  • Create opportunities for brainstorming and spontaneous collaboration? 

The approach you take to office attendance should be built on why you want your team to return in the first place.

If your goal is to build stronger culture, for example, you might consider mandating attendance on specific days every week, and pre-schedule company lunches, community events, brainstorming sessions, and so on for those days. Or, if your goal is to make sure employees have a chance to build relationships with their managers, you may want to speak to departments individually and encourage them to coordinate their in-office days based on when managers and employees have 1:1 meetings.

2. Determine the current expectations—both overall, and for your industry

In 2021, we hosted a webinar to better understand how other companies are handling attendance. When we surveyed the attendees, we discovered that 61.6% of organizations do not plan to require in-office attendance during the week, while 38.3% do plan to establish an attendance requirement.

While this sentiment has and will continue to shift as concerns around COVID continue to lessen, it showed that the majority of companies we spoke to do not plan on mandating attendance.

Expectations will continue to shift, as well as vary by industry, so it's a good idea to take a moment and do some research to determine what the best practices are. Have your professional connections implemented mandatory attendance and gotten extreme pushback? Have they seen productivity and team cohesion improve? Take a moment at the outset to gather information.

3. Consider all employee circumstances

Did some employees move out of the city during COVID? Coming into the office for three mandatory office days will likely be a huge imposition for them. But, bi-weekly or monthly required days might be a great way to help them feel connected to their coworkers.

And, consider that certain orgs might benefit from in-office days more than others. Some roles suffer without regular in-person collaboration, while other roles benefit from the lack of interruptions afforded by remote work.

When you're considering your attendance policy, don't forget to consider where everyone on your team is located, what kind of work they do, and so on.

Related content: How Gathering Feedback Will Improve Your Office Culture and Employee Experience

4. Survey your team

Next, check in with employees.

How often do they want to come into the office? Would they rather come in at random, or on specific days? What are their priorities around in-office work? Before you define policies, consider sending out a survey to gather feedback.

Some questions you can ask include: 

  • How often would you personally like to work from the office?
  • Would you prefer set office days, or random days? 
  • Would you prefer a mandatory number of in-office days (i.e., coming in twice a week on any two days), or designated office days (i.e., coming in every week on Tuesday and Thursday)?
  • What do you miss about working from the office?
  • What don't you miss about working from the office?
  • What would make it easier/more enjoyable to come into the office for work? 
  • How would you feel about the creation of a mandatory attendance policy overall? 

5. Don't forget logistics

Logistics are also a crucial consideration. Whether you require employees to come in three times a week or allow them the flexibility to drop in when they choose, you have to create the appropriate plans, policies, and processes in advance. 

The first thing you want to confirm is whether a specific office location has enough space to accommodate the employees in that area. If you’re working with a smaller space, it may be helpful to plan for staggered attendance days, or “A/B days."

You also want to think through how to manage seating arrangements. Some offices may have dedicated desks for every employee, while others may prefer a shared desk situation. If you’re considering the latter, look into desk booking software to make the reservation process as seamless as possible and ensure everyone always has a desk when they need one.

6. Think through the long-term impact

Regardless of what you decide, be prepared for the long-term impact.

For instance, you may want to think through the impact of having a growing, evolving team. If key team members move further away from your office, a mandatory attendance policy may not be the best fit. Or, if your local team is actively growing larger than your allotted space, it may make sense to set up a staggered or A/B day arrangement.

Also, keep in mind that if you choose not to make attendance mandatory, your employees may be disappointed since they’re not guaranteed to see their friends and team members face-to-face. After a period of work isolation, many people are craving in-person connections and are looking forward to rebuilding their relationships with colleagues at the office.

Our Return to Office survey found that 52% of office workers report socializing with colleagues as their top reason for wanting to return to the office. Without guidance from your company, people may find it difficult to coordinate attendance on their own.

The long-term impact of feeling disconnected from coworkers may result in employees leaving your company, so it's important to consider. Having set in-office days (even if they're infrequent) can help here, as can using a tool like Eden's desk booking, where employees can not only book desks in advance, but follow colleagues and send out invitations to work from the office—which helps everyone collaborate and coordinate in-office days more easily.

Related content: How to Use Tech to Foster Friendships in Flexible Workplaces

7. Clearly communicate expectations

While every hybrid setup will vary, it’s essential to establish clear expectations for the arrangement to be successful.

Attendance is one of the areas where expectations need to be communicated with employees. Once you have clarified your top priorities around employees returning to the office, surveyed your team, and made some decisions around your attendance policy, make sure to clearly share expectations in writing, in an all-hands meeting, on your company's internal knowledge base or intranet, and so on.

Unfortunately, it might not be possible to make everyone happy. But, by being transparent throughout the process, asking for feedback as you build your attendance policy, communicating your plan with your employees, and making adjustments along the way, you'll make it clear that you value creating a policy that works as well as possible for everyone.

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