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6 Ways to Encourage Employees Back to the Office from Remote Work

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Written by Sean Li • April 29, 2021

6 Ways to Encourage Employees Back to the Office from Remote Work

The return to work is the latest challenge of the COVID-19 era. Life has changed, and office standards (plus employee expectations) won’t be the same. This is stressful for employees and employers alike.

How can organizations encourage workers to return? First, the basics. Communicate early and often about policies and procedures. Stay updated and bookmark safety guidelines from the CDC and local officials.

Beyond that, here are six ways to make the shift a smooth transition for employees.

1) Safety First

We’ve heard it a million times, but it’s just as relevant: safety must remain a top priority. Create a checklist of requirements before staff returns.

This includes:

  • Plexiglass for areas where social distancing can’t be maintained.
  • Hand sanitizer locations around the office.
  • Rearrange desks so employees have ample space and feel comfortable working.
  • Create a cleaning schedule to maintain cleanliness and peace of mind.
  • Help with social distancing by using arrows to direct walking traffic, and set occupancy limits for various areas around the office.
  • Install a system for temperature checks, such as a self-check in system with a tablet or specialized equipment.

These investments may be costly. But consider the financial effects of having multiple employees get sick and quit due to poor safety standards. Safety standards are a moral obligation and a savvy business move.

2) In-Person Office Perks

Create a list of perks that employees have missed out on during COVID-19. Mix fun with functional.

  • Masseuse or massage chair - A professional masseuse is an example of a perk that employees haven’t experienced since the “before times.” Extra health safety precautions are required. A massage chair works as an alternative option.
  • Mental health resources - Assisting employees with mental health resources should be at the forefront of any HR agenda. Provide encouragement, financial help, or strengthen insurance offerings.
  • Exercise options - More employers will be investing in office gyms as many have canceled their gym memberships. Group classes are another option for collective exercise.

Some employers are creating theme days such as Mario Kart Monday and Waffle Wednesday. Sometimes the most effective incentive is straightforward FOMO. Remember that many people are missing social connection. A Slack survey found nearly half of newly remote workers say their sense of belonging has been negatively affected.

3) Office Catering

Employees can still bond over a shared meal. Reward your teammates coming back with catered breakfast and lunch. This will also keep them inside the office, boosting productivity and minimizing outside exposure.

If you're looking for a office catering solution, CaterCow partners with local restaurants and caterers looking to keep their business alive after a difficult 2020. These meals can be individually wrapped, and all caterers are consistently vetted and pass regular quality control tests.

A wide variety of cuisine and seasonal options will give your returning employees an extra boost. We all know one of the biggest reasons office life used to be tolerated - free food!

4) Homey Office, Happy Employees

Things have changed. The switch back to office life is going to be difficult for many and requires drastic changes to routines and habits. Help employees through the transition with flexibility and familiarity. For instance,

  • Equipment stipend - Make sure employees don’t have a downgrade compared to their home office. Make sure they’re able to purchase miscellaneous items for convenience or efficiency.
  • Pets - Dogs and cats have been blessed with the opportunity to be alongside their humans during the pandemic. Make it easier on all the good boys and girls by letting pets come to the office once a week or more.
  • Childcare - Those with children have had an especially difficult time. They may have children who are still doing school remotely. Schedules have been built around working remotely so employers have to be flexible as office life resumes. Allow parents to work flexible hours so they can maintain their childcare responsibilities.

5) Well-Being Software and Services

The well-being software industry is more relevant after COVID-19. These services help employers invest in the collective health of their organization. Examples include:

  • Wellness Planning - Develop, manage and improve employee wellness with platforms that provide company-wide assistance and resources.
  • Activity Challenge - Implement a challenge based on steps or activity. These services provide friendly competition while keeping employees healthy.
  • Mediation and Mindfulness - These apps help employees find their inner zen with videos, resources and best practices from professionals.

Alternatively, many of these ideas can be designed manually. For example, use FitBit devices to create a step challenge or launch a health council to design wellness plans.

6) Incentives and Financial Awards

For many employees, there’s only one thing that would make them comfortable with returning to the office. After all, most workers have piled up savings due to quarantine life and now have to take on a commute or return to public transit.

Identify options for financial bonuses or other incentives for returning to work. Look for ways to make commutes either via carpool programs or public transport stipends. Financial incentives are especially important for those with offices in urban areas. According to Stanford research, employees reported a 25 percent drop in demand to work in high-rise offices in 2021.

Wrapping Up

The return to work will require communication, safety, and employee support. It’s a new challenge for employers and an unprecedented workforce circumstance. It’ll take creative ideas and patience to make it work. Whether you're providing catered office lunch, allowing pets, or providing financial perks, take steps now to plan out ways to welcome and reward those coming back.