Luring Employees Back to Office Life

What did it (or would it) take to bring your employees back to the physical workplace?

Not everyone is back at the office, and of those who are, most are not back five days a week. The norm appears to be a permanent hybrid model with employees returning two to three days per week to office life.

According to Quartz, only 49 percent of employees who were asked to return to the office are there five days a week. With such resistance, employers are trying to come up with creative perks, according to reporting by Matt Glynn in The Buffalo News. He cites free on-site haircuts, complimentary meals from food trucks, and even a private concert featuring a country music star as ways companies are attempting to lure employees back to office life.

Rescue Pet Visits

Another company, a bank, brings rescue dogs to visit its headquarters. Employees are notified via the company intranet that a rescue dog will be onsite on a given day, so animal lovers like me can plan to be there that day. Good luck getting me to be there for a top executive’s visit, but for a rescue dog or cat, I’m there!

Coveted Cubicles

Sometimes getting employees to come back is much simpler. In the last decade, the cubicle fell by the wayside in favor of a return to old-fashioned bullpens. Desks ceased having borders and privacy. I can imagine being lured back by the modest gesture of offering me a cubicle. You can personalize a cubicle almost as much as an office and you have the peace of not being in most people’s line of sight when sitting down. There’s also the psychological benefit of feeling that you are held in high enough esteem to be given a spot especially for you.

A Central Location

Another key to bringing people back is staying, or moving, to a location that is centrally located for most employees. If your organization decided to not renew expensive office space, and instead designated an office an hour away from the old location as the new headquarters, you may have made a mistake. Those who were on the fence about returning definitely won’t be returning now. If you already made such a mistake, renting a much smaller space in a central location could be the answer to recapturing your old in-person work culture.

Social Gatherings

In-person fun with colleagues is another great lure that is as simple as organizing a staff breakfast, lunch, or dinner once a month. If you really want to lure them back, you’ll foot the bill for the meal. However, just knowing that the group will be eating together that day may spur many employees to not want to miss out. When I travel for business, my favorite part is the meals I eat with my colleagues. A cocktail hour once a month also could do the trick. As long as there is a social gathering, many will want to be a part of it, and will come into the office that day since everyone will be leaving together from the office for lunch or dinner, or traveling into the office together for work after eating breakfast together. Those who are not drawn to socializing with peers may join these gatherings and come into the office that day for fear of missing important professional networking opportunities.

Classes with Colleagues

Yet another idea is to have everyone attend an activity together once a month, or even every week. Years ago, shortly after joining a company, my colleagues and I went to a yoga class together once a week. We walked there together, spending about 20 minutes chatting as we made our way to the yoga studio, and then had the experience of the class together. We got to know each other better, and those days, none of us were hardly ever absent.

You could think of spurring in-person office attendance as a widescale buddy system. You create events that make it so no one wants to be the one who stayed at home and disappointed their buddies.

Have you had success at getting employees back to the office as much as you hoped they would return in-person? If so, how did you do it? If not, what do you think went wrong and will you try again?