Return to office mandates continue to make headlines as companies roll out demands for their employees. Google recently announced they are cracking down on requiring three days in-office for most staff, while Salesforce is encouraging people to come back in by donating to charity for every worker that comes in.
According to ResumeBuilder.com’s recent survey of company decision-makers and their RTO plans, 90% of companies will return to office by 2024 and 28% will threaten to fire employees who don’t comply with RTO.
“It’s important to note that, when it comes to RTO, one size does not fit all,” says Chief Career Advisor, Stacie Haller. “The majority of business leaders who plan to RTO in 2024 seem to understand that, in order to retain talent, they can’t force unwilling employees back to the office. The end of 2024 is still a long way away, and the job market is constantly changing. It remains to be seen if businesses will follow through on their RTO plans, especially when taking into account the recent backlash against major employers who have forced employees back to office.”
So, what is the most effective way to encourage people to come in?
In this week’s HR Query, Archer Chiang, CEO of Giftpack – an AI-powered corporate gifting platform – shares best practices for getting employees back into the office, how to communicate return to office plans, and more.
Here’s what he had to say.
What are best practices for making employees want to come back to the office?
AC: Looking ahead to the fall, I anticipate many companies will start calling workers back to the office for additional days per week, especially since Google and Salesforce are pushing for office returns. But a mandate won’t make people want to come back, and it’s important to make the physical workplace a space people want to return to. To do that effectively, there are several steps companies can take.
First, offer on-site perks that employees won’t have at home. Catered lunches can go a long way, so think of what employees will want access to that can make their day better and try to invest in those areas.
Second, gift employees with company swag that they can use while in the office, or as part of their daily commute or routine when coming in. According to Giftpack data, 56%
of employees would love to receive gifts as compared to other benefits. This can include a backpack with a laptop sleeve, a travel mug for their coffee, headphones for people who take the train, bike helmets for those who ride, or something else that really speaks to your company’s DNA.
Third, when you can, try to cover employees’ travel – or part of it. Pretax commuter benefits can help workers save money when commuting, which can take some of the burden off them for coming into the office.
Fourth, set up regular brainstorms or interactive meetings where employees can engage with one another. If an employee comes into the office only to sit at their desk and work, without interacting with coworkers or engaging with their team, there won’t be value in the office for them. Design ways for them to engage with one another so they can develop and foster bonds with their colleagues. A collaborative environment helps employees to feel more connected and can bolster creativity and innovation, as well.
Name some ways leaders can communicate changes to hybrid work plans without upsetting employees.
AC: If you’re bringing people back into the office, they may not all be happy. While some frustration from employees can be expected, here’s how leaders can communicate return to work plans as seamlessly as possible.
First, give a lot of notice. If your employees are in once a week now and you’re changing that to 2-3 days, try to tell them at least a month or two in advance. This enables workers to sort out changes they may need for childcare or dog walkers, and to get used to the idea itself.
Have a good reason as to why you are making changes. It can be that you want people to collaborate more, you think it would be helpful for engagement, you’re making changes to strategy, or something else. Explaining why can help employees to get on board or to understand the motivations of the change rather than coming across as a demand from leadership.
Be prepared to answer questions and expect pushback. Some employees may ask for exceptions to the change; plan with your leadership team in advance of how you want to handle these, and when and how you can make allowances for a different schedule. Be mindful that these accommodations will need to be widespread and not specific to just a few employees.
Offer a perk for coming in – or give a ‘gift’ that employees can use as part of their new commuting cadence. For example, at Giftpack, we’ve seen lots of companies give new hires portable chargers, shirts, calendar notebooks, customized badge holders, and various snacks. It helps them get into the swing of things at the office.
Why is making the office/company a place employees want to be still important, even when job-hopping is down?
AC: Efforts to support employee retention rates take time, so you shouldn’t only be investing in the employee experience when you’re actively hiring. Workers will remember how you acted in times of stress as well as moments of success. How can you do this? Of the many ways to address cultural challenges in a flexible work environment, personalized gifting is straightforward, easily adoptable, and demonstrates clear investments into employees and their wellbeing. Offering personalized gifting has traditionally been unpopular because it was always a time-consuming process. Coupling this with other investments in employees – learning and development opportunities, benefits that support workers’ mental health, and setting up a mentorship program, for example – will pave the way for a strong culture employees will flock to, supporting loyalty.