Best Practices for Bringing Employees Back to the Office
VergeSense is the industry leader in providing enterprises with a true understanding of their occupancy and how their offices are actually being used.
So many companies tout that their employees are their most valuable asset and investment. Yet, only some actually orient their businesses around employee-first values. But today, with historic shifts happening in workplace culture, we have the opportunity to genuinely meet employee needs with fresh working policies and intentionally designed office spaces.
We are at an important crossroads in the history of work culture. We have officially shifted to hybrid work, and it is now vital for business leaders to reassess their workplace systems. What investments need to happen to create a vibrant office today?
Let's look at how employee needs have changed, what incentives other companies are investing in, and how you can shift gears too.
Why don’t employees want to return to the office?
Before even considering the work environment, it is vital to understand why employees are reluctant to return to the office in the first place.
First and foremost, it's critical to consider those with health concerns. Coming into close contact with others in an office setting is still not a healthy option for some. It is essential to accommodate their health needs and create systems that allow them to be part of the team even from afar.
Beyond health concerns, many have found working remotely to be incredibly fulfilling and promote a much stronger work-life balance. You can set up your home office just how you like it and dig into deep, focused work without fear of interruption from a colleague. And when you do need a brain break, you can pop out to see your kids, wash the dishes, or throw in a load of laundry. Employees can pepper home tasks throughout their days and even fit in a workout or nature walk on their lunch breaks.
Remote work cuts out commute times, saves gas and public transportation money, and can be done anywhere in the world. After years of working 40+ hours in the office, the flexibility, adaptability, and productivity that remote work offers are incredibly valuable to employees today.
Why are businesses facing low employee attendance?
With all the benefits discussed, it is no surprise that many opt to continue working remotely rather than on-site. Employee wants and needs have changed over the last years, and companies still need to catch up with effective hybrid models. It takes time for a company to assess these new work habits, make thoughtful decisions regarding their office culture, and adjust their spaces to meet the change in demand.
It is important to note that we would do well to shift our thinking about low occupancy—hybrid work is here to stay. The number of people working full-time in the office will never return to what it was before the pandemic. It's thus essential to shift from thinking "low occupancy is a problem" to "low occupancy is an opportunity."
The office will not become obsolete—its function and use have simply changed. And now, as business leaders, it is the perfect opportunity to reassess your workplaces and invest in what will make a difference in employee retention, productivity, and satisfaction.
How is employee attendance going to change in the coming months?
As companies begin to make proper adjustments, there will likely be an uptick of employees returning to the office more regularly. We wouldn't be surprised if occupancy rose to 50% in the next six to twelve months.
Enough time will have passed for companies to develop and roll out their new hybrid work plans. They will have experimented, analyzed the data, and implemented appropriate changes. And these, of course, will include amenities and investments that will attract employees back. So, as new work plans are rolled out, more employees will use the offices more regularly.
Another reason is that leases tend to be on a five-to-ten-year schedule. Many leases signed before 2020 will soon be up for negotiation and renewal. Companies are currently laying the groundwork to right-size their spaces by using occupancy sensors and analyzing data with spatial intelligence. This will make the office more attractive to employees and more able to meet their needs.
What investments are companies making to attract employees back to the office?
It is helpful to see how other companies are shifting their office environments and whether or not their changes to the physical office are effective. But always remember that successful investments vary company by company, industry by industry, region by region. Just because someone else is doing it well doesn't mean it will work for you and your employees.
Meter just hired their first chef to provide nutritious snacks and meals for their employees. Microsoft is investing in ensuring its digital spaces, technology, and internet services are top-notch for remote employees to connect easily. And Google continues to invest in prime office locations and state-of-the-art amenities to attract its employees.
Some companies are starting to use platforms such as Café that combine schedule features with social media. These assist with new systems such as hot desking and allow hybrid teams to connect and build relationships. Without face-to-face interactions in the office, learning about each other's families, hobbies, and interests outside of work is challenging. Café is helping to create those connections.
5 ways to get employees back into the office
While it will take data analysis to figure out what will work best for your specific company, here are some baseline changes you can make to attract employees back to the office.
Adopt a hybrid work model
This should absolutely be your first move. Employees want the flexibility of working from home, the office, a local coffee shop, or a hotel lobby in Bermuda. The reasons we listed in the beginning are tangible value-adds for your employees. And you can rest assured that research shows employees are more productive and less distracted when working remotely.
So lean into this new era of hybrid work. Be understanding and build your workplace model around this need for flexibility.
Offer more amenities
We all love perks. Whether it's a bit of chocolate after cranking out an hour of focused work or a swanky new chair that makes us excited to sit at our desks, regularly treating ourselves makes life more fun. Layer similar perks into your office space: offer free lunch and gym memberships. Invest in more ergonomic furniture and better desks. And, if nothing else, keep that break room stocked with coffee!
If you right-size your real estate portfolio, you will likely save money on your space. Think creatively about reinvesting that money into other more valuable amenities for your employees.
Invest in company culture
More than treats, people are what make life meaningful. And having strong relationships at a company keeps employees satisfied and loyal. With fewer moments of connection, making each count is all the more critical. Reevaluate company culture and create a place where collaboration and camaraderie can flourish.
Create collaboration workspaces
The office has become a space where employees gather to brainstorm, troubleshoot ideas, and work together. Collaborative workspaces have thus become even more critical. Individual workstations will still be needed, but you'll probably need fewer. Instead, invest in furniture that can be rearranged to fit the needs of different types of meetings. Repurpose spaces to be more inviting for groups to meet in.
Host in-person social events
Happy hours, lunches, group fitness classes. Think through your company culture and what would be fun ways to bring employees back together outside of work. Create space for them to enjoy each other. This very well could snowball into them wanting to see each other more regularly. Sometimes, we forget how valuable human connection is.
The Need for Data
As you consider what investments to make in your office, it is vital to have the necessary data and resources to assess your employees' unique needs. VergeSense offers more than just occupancy sensors. We are a comprehensive platform that uses spatial intelligence to see how, when, and why spaces are utilized.
From there, you can make informed decisions about your office space. How much square footage do you need? What types of huddle rooms are most popular? And how do you value your employees through intentional office space design? Contact VergeSense today to learn how we can help you make the right investments in your office space.