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Encouraging Employee Return to Office

Encouraging Employee Return to Office: Strategies to Bridge the Divide

October 9, 2023

In the quest for increased productivity, companies are fervently urging their employees to return to the office, but they are encountering resistance. According to Owl Labs’ recent State of Hybrid Work survey, which surveyed 2,000 full-time employees, a significant portion of the workforce remains skeptical of the benefits of an employee return to office.

The survey revealed that 69% of employees believe their companies are mandating a return to office primarily due to traditional work expectations. This disconnect is just one of the factors that have limited enthusiasm for returning to the office. Even with recent mandates, data from Kastle Systems shows that the percentage of employees in large cities returning to the office has remained relatively stagnant, hovering just above 50%.

The desire for flexibility in work hours and location is a key driver of this resistance. Employees who have the option for hybrid or remote work are less likely to have changed jobs in 2023 compared to full-time office workers, underscoring the importance of flexibility in today’s work landscape.

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Addressing Employee Concerns: The Pain Points of employee return to office

Dress codes and commutes are among the primary concerns that employees have when it comes to returning to the office. To bridge the gap and encourage employees to return, companies must consider addressing these pain points:

  1. Flexible Dress Codes: According to a Gallup Study, Approximately 72% of surveyed employees consider a flexible dress code important, with 24% expressing their willingness to return to the office if they could wear clothing of their choice. In fact, 25% of respondents would even accept a pay cut for a relaxed or eliminated dress code. This aligns with a broader trend of diminishing formal dress codes in the workplace.
  2. Commute Costs and Time: Commuting remains a significant barrier to returning to the office. The Owl Labs survey revealed that in-office workers spend around $51 per day on commuting, translating to over $1,000 per month. Furthermore, 59% of employees spend at least 31 minutes commuting each way. Companies can alleviate this burden by considering options such as subsidizing commuting costs.
  3. Earning the Commute: Experts have introduced the concept of “earning the commute” to ensure that employees feel their return to the office is worthwhile. This means creating an environment where employees can engage in meaningful, collaborative work that cannot be easily replicated in remote settings. Companies should aim to make the office experience productive and valuable.
  4. Improved Communication: Better communication about when colleagues will be in the office is essential. Uncertainty about who will be present can lead to inefficiencies. Implementing tools or processes that allow employees to know in advance when their coworkers will be in the office can enhance collaboration.
  5. Subsidized Amenities: Providing subsidized food and beverages can make the office environment more inviting. Employees appreciate perks that enhance their work experience.

Adapting to the Changing Landscape of Return to Office

As the work landscape evolves, companies should consider adopting a more flexible approach to dress codes. Many organizations have already relaxed their dress codes over the past decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating this shift. While formal attire remains important for certain situations, allowing employees to dress casually on most days can boost morale and comfort.

Addressing commuting challenges is another priority. Employers can consider offering commuter benefits, such as covering commuting costs, to incentivize employees to return to the office. Additionally, focusing on creating a productive and collaborative office environment can make the commute worthwhile.

The State of the Return to Office

Despite efforts to bring employees back to the office, enthusiasm among workers remains lukewarm. Some employees are engaging in what’s known as “coffee badging,” showing up at the office briefly before returning home to work remotely. While office occupancy has seen slight improvements since the start of the year, it remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Encouraging employees return to office requires a thoughtful approach that addresses their concerns and prioritizes flexibility, convenience, and productivity. By understanding and accommodating employee needs, companies can create a workplace that fosters success for both employees and the organization as a whole.

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