3 Things To Consider When Trying To Bring Your Employees Back In-Office

Heidi Lynne Kurter
5 min readOct 1, 2022

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Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for bringing employees back to the office. Employers will need to figure out what works best for their employees, culture, and business needs. The biggest mistake companies make is forcing employees back to the office without first finding out what their workers want. This leads to increased resignations and unhappy employees. New research from Microsoft found that 50% of leaders will require employees to return to in-person work full-time in the next year. This same research revealed that 52% of employees are considering changing to a full-time remote or hybrid job.

The reality is that employees have been working from home for more than two years now. They’ve built out a personalized and comfortable office environment, and created a routine around working from home. Employees will undoubtedly be reluctant to return to the office. In fact, most of their teams are more spread out than before the pandemic. This is due to companies expanding their reach to secure top talent. Rather than requiring all employees to be in-office, it would be worthwhile to see which teams are in the same location. If a team is scattered throughout the country or the world, it wouldn’t make sense to require them to return to the office.

Here are three things to consider when trying to bring your employees back in-office.

Consider The Consequences

Employee movements such as “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” have proven that workers aren’t hesitant to quit their job and find something that caters to their needs. Employers should think about the consequences of requiring remote workers to return to the office as doing so will most likely push away top performers.

It’s crucial that employers take the time to solicit feedback from employees. This is more than simply asking if they want to return to the office. It’s hosting a discussion and finding out what they need in order to return. Employers can then use that feedback to structure their return to work plan in a way that wins over employees. Remember, the relationship between the employer and employee is a partnership. Employers who make demands may win in the short-term, but in the long-term they’ll experience loss of loyalty, increased turnover, and disengaged employees. Hamza Usmani, head of content at BuyWeGovyOnline, recommended employers to approach feedback discussions about returning to work by “outlining a basic plan, getting input from employees and working together to come up with solutions. The earlier these discussions take place, the better; this will enable companies to modify plans in response to employee feedback and criticism.”

Rethink Your Initiatives And Benefits

According to Pew Research Center, the typical worker who changed jobs during the pandemic experienced a salary increase of at least 9.7%. In an effort to capture top talent in this competitive market, companies have had to increase hiring budgets. Consequently, those who have remained loyal during the pandemic are making less than new hires as well as those who have since left the company. When rethinking initiatives and benefits, companies should prioritize closing the compensation gap that exists and making sure all employees are paid competitively.

Pizza parties and happy hours are not going to be what persuades employees to come back to the office. Thakker explained, “initiatives that make employees perceive coming back to the office as less of a mandate and more of an enriching everyday experience, are the ones that’ll flourish. This can be in the form of in-person knowledge sharing sessions with leaders, identified mentors, and cross-functional experts. Employees can benefit from such initiatives and become better leaders, hone their presentation skills, and participate in mentorship programs that not only enable collaboration but also cement the organization’s interest and commitment in an employee’s professional career for the long haul.”

Some initiatives and benefits employers can offer are:

  • Pet care
  • Childcare
  • A gas and parking stipend
  • Transit passes or subsidies
  • Additional days off per month or quarter

Thakker expressed, “hybrid work and flexible hours should remain the norm, along with the twofold approach to health and wellness benefits: including an employee’s close/loved ones as part of wellness programs and catering to both physical and mental health.” Amar Vig, managing director at London-fs, added, “although employees are expected to be at work, they should be given the time and flexibility they require to attend to family and personal matters. Most organizations can no longer afford to micromanage employees or demand rigid, set hours at their desks.”

Invest In The Office Environment

If companies are requiring employees to give up working in the comfort of their own home, they need to invest in creating an office environment where people actually want to be. This may include catered office lunches, team-building activities, healthy snacks, a welcoming kitchen, collaborative spaces, comfortable office chairs, standing desks, and noise cancelling headphones, to name a few.

If collaboration is a key reason for bringing employees back in-office, employers should assemble a committee with a designated person in each office who leads activities such as a walking club, playing board games, hosting office events, celebrating fun non-traditional holidays such as National Donut Day, and more. Having a designated person to create fun activities with a monthly budget will help make the office more enjoyable. While working from home is comfortable, employees miss socializing and getting to know their colleagues. The more connected employees feel the more willing they’ll be to make the commute.

For companies that are on the fence about whether or not they should bring employees back to the office, Thakker shared that he’s seeing companies invest part of their real estate budget towards high-intensity, high impact team off-sites. He said this still helps to enable collaboration and ideation while ensuring employees are having fun. It’s a win-win all around as the company saves a significant amount of money from what they were spending on keeping offices open and they’re able to retain talent that would’ve left for a fully-remote company.

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Heidi Lynne Kurter

Forbes senior journalist, workplace culture consultant, leadership coach, domestic violence advocate, workplace bully activist and Corgi mom!