No commute, saving money, wearing slippers all day… many employees have reaped the benefits of working from home over the past 15 months, and are reluctant to return to the office. Meanwhile, many companies are preparing for a return to the office in some form or another – the need to distance means they can’t welcome everyone back at once. Hybrid working – partly at home, partly in an office – looks like the way forward in the short term, and could even be a larger cultural shift.
In Envoy’s UK Return to the Workplace Report, 70% of respondents said that working in a hybrid way would bring personal benefits, with 34% saying it would improve their mental health and 41% saying it would be good for work-life balance. It found that the top factor that influences where an employee decides to work is who else plans to be at the workplace that day (including their boss, friends or teammates).
So there is a move to return to the office in some capacity, but the challenge for companies is managing the logistics of who comes in on which days, as well as convincing employees that it’s safe and beneficial for them. Here are some ideas for The Great Return:
1. Encourage a sense of community
“People are missing the community aspect of being in a workplace,” says Envoy founder and CEO Larry Gadea. “At the moment it’s: ‘I’m at home, I transactionally do my job, I get paid, I go away.’ But that’s no way to live a life. We’re trying to bring the community back.”
He continues, “It’s a different world now and many companies already have concepts like ‘No Meetings Thursdays’. The point is the office is available for people to go into, be collaborative with each other and optimise that environment, but it doesn’t have to be every day.”
By allowing people to sit with the people they’re working with, or near meeting rooms or windows, it helps make the return to work not just a requirement, but actually desirable.
2. Highlight the perks of an office
The workplace needs to remind people of its value, says Gadea. He points out that it’s a good time for employers to hint at things like, “By the way, the rubbish is emptied all the time, there’s food available, there are clean bathrooms, there's air-conditioning, there are people around, there’s energy. These are the kinds of perks people don’t think about.”
Although Covid has led to this specific issue, Gadea thinks the wider future of work will be more flexible. He sees the office as “somewhere where we’re all interconnected – it’s about employees enjoying and appreciating their day-to-day work, as opposed to going to work because their boss told them to”.
What’s more, a bit more flexibility and understanding can lead to more loyal employees.
3. Let employees know you’re being thoughtful
Companies need to be able to allocate a certain number of desks, use their space efficiently and make sure everyone is healthy.
Envoy Desks, a new desk reservation system, helps companies adapt to a hybrid workplace, meet social distancing guidelines, and optimise their office space with data-driven insights. Additional tools have been added to make hybrid work space management and collaboration easier.
The desk booking software asks employees to fill in a survey when they want to come into the office. The specific questions are set by the employer, and could give people the option to sit near certain colleagues, say whether they’ll need food, or if they’re expecting visitors.
Employees can give feedback about their office experience, which provides invaluable data for companies to make future business decisions, as well as helping them tweak aspects of the workplace to suit their employees’ needs. Specsavers and Pret-A-Manger already use Envoy Desks in the UK.
Gadea says, “I don’t think any business leader can declare how a particular employee should feel about a pandemic. By giving them options, even if it’s just for a few months, their employees will appreciate it. A lot of people are concerned their companies are going to rush them into something. We want to help them realise that their companies are being thoughtful about this transition.”
Find out more about how Envoy can keep your business running safely and smoothly as a flexible workplace here.
About the Survey
The Envoy (UK) Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 UK Adults Ages 18+, employed full or part-time, between May 7th and May 12th, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey. The data has been weighted to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the employed UK adult population, ages 18+.
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