The ultimate guide to the return to office

The ultimate guide to the return to office provides a comprehensive framework. It emphasizes careful planning, prioritizing health and safety measures, transparent communication, workspace adaptations, employee support, training, flexibility, and continuous evaluation. By following these steps, organizations can ensure a smooth and successful return to the office while prioritizing the well-being and productivity of their employees.

The return to the office after the pandemic has caused some disagreement among people and their workplaces. Some workers prefer flexibility in when and where they work, while companies believe being in-person boosts teamwork and productivity. So, many have turned to hybrid work, where employees split their time between home and the office. This compromise aims to satisfy both sides. But, it means employees still need to go back to the office, at least part-time. In this guide, we’ll explore how businesses can create return-to-office plans that benefit both their employees and their goals. We’ll also discuss technologies that can improve office efficiency. Let’s begin by understanding:

  1. What does the return to office entail?
  2. Exploring the advantages and challenges of returning to the office
  3. Examining various return-to-office policies
  4. Providing five tips for a successful return-to-office strategy

What does the return to office entail?

After the pandemic in 2020, many companies want their employees to come back to work at the office. But not all jobs are the same. Some industries, like healthcare and manufacturing, need people at work every day. But others, like tech companies, are okay with people working from home sometimes. In the US, only 16% of companies let people work from home all the time. Most companies are still deciding how often people should come to the office, maybe 1 or 2 days a week.

Exploring the advantages and challenges of returning to the office

When it comes to going back to the office, there are both good and bad sides. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every company or person. But here’s the good part: you can create your own return-to-office plan instead of sticking to the usual. Being thoughtful and flexible in your approach shows your employees that you care. And when they feel valued, they’re more likely to appreciate being back in the office.

If you’re wondering about how to handle your return-to-office policy, here are some perks to highlight and some challenges to watch out for.

Perk #1: Balance between work and life
Going back to the office helps people balance their work and personal life by keeping them separate physically. They can work at the office and leave it behind when they go home. Depending on the setup, some can even balance it during work-from-home days. Going back to the office doesn’t mean they can’t handle personal stuff while there. In fact, most leaders don’t mind if you take care of personal things during the day. Managing work-life balance is doable when you return to the office, maybe even more than for remote workers who often end up working longer hours.

Perk #2: Being noticed at work
According to a survey, leaders are more likely to recognize employees who come to the office often. Being there in person, sitting near managers, and leading presentations all help get noticed. More face time with executives means they’re more likely to see your work, which could lead to career growth.

Perk #3: Collaboration in person
Returning to the office means being around coworkers, which is great for collaboration. It helps build team spirit, work relationships, and a sense of belonging. Plus, collaborating in person can boost productivity and company culture.

Perk #4: Boosts productivity and company vibe
Even though technology helps with remote work, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Being together lets people brainstorm, ask questions, and work together more naturally. This boosts productivity and brings back the company vibe.

Challenge #1: Commuting
Remote workers have saved a lot of time by skipping the commute. But going back to the office means dealing with it again. Many employees see long commutes as a big problem. While organizations can’t eliminate commutes, they can make it easier. Offering flexible work hours, commuting stipends, shuttle buses, and asking employees for input on the best commuting days are all helpful.

Challenge #2: Health concerns
Even though COVID-19 isn’t as big a threat, people will still be exposed to germs. This can be worrying for those with weak immune systems. Respecting employees’ feelings about safety is crucial. Investing in technology like visitor management systems and health verification tools can help ensure safety in the office.

Examining various return-to-office policies

Different companies have different ways of bringing their employees back to the office. There’s no single correct approach. Your plan should fit your company’s needs. Here are three options you can consider:

  1. Optional Return: Employees can choose whether they want to work from the office or not. They might decide how often to come in and for how long. You can offer flexibility in some areas but not all. For example, they could pick the days they come in but still need to work during certain hours. Giving choices can make employees happier as they arrange their schedules based on what suits them best.
  2. Hybrid Return: This is the most common option. Employees work from the office part of the week and from home the rest. Some companies offer more flexibility than others. Some employees might choose which days they come in, while others may have set days like Mondays and Wednesdays.
  3. Full-time Return: This policy offers little to no flexibility. For certain jobs, like in manufacturing, being in the office full-time might be necessary. If you’re having trouble getting people back to the office or want everyone together at least once a week, this could be the right choice.

Remember, it takes time for people to adjust to change. Your return-to-office plan may not be popular at first, but as more employees return, others may want to join in. Ultimately, a successful return-to-office plan is one that’s flexible and considers employees’ needs and preferences.

Providing five tips for a successful return-to-office strategy

We’ve talked about the good and bad sides of going back to the office and the different policies you can choose from. Now, let’s get practical and discuss five ways you can make sure your return to office plan goes smoothly.

Get the Right Tech:

  • Make sure your office is equipped with the right technology. In a recent survey, many employees said they’d be put off returning to work if the tech was outdated. Consider tools like:
    • Desk booking software: This lets people pick where they want to sit each day.
    • Room booking systems: Make it easy to find and reserve meeting rooms.
    • Hybrid work scheduling: Helps manage who’s coming in and when.

Think About Your Employees:

  • Employees who feel valued are more likely to stick around. Send out surveys to understand their concerns and needs. Then, think of ways to address them. For example, if people worry about leaving pets at home, consider making the office pet-friendly.

Design Your Office Thoughtfully:

  • Ask yourself if your office is a place people would want to return to. Think about things like layout, colors, and social spaces. Make it welcoming and comfortable. Different areas for different vibes can help too.

Take It Slow:

  • Going straight from remote work to full-time office can upset people. Start slowly and gradually increase office days. If the goal is three days a week, begin with two and then build up.

Be Flexible:

  • Flexibility is key, especially after the pandemic. Let people work in ways that suit them, whether it’s managing childcare or running errands. It’ll benefit your organization in the long run.

The return to office is happening, with most companies expected to have some form of it by 2023. Use these tips to make sure your plan works for both your business and your employees. And if you want more insights, check out our latest At Work report for updated data on workplace trends.

Conclusion

In Summary, navigating the return to the office requires a thoughtful and strategic approach that prioritizes the well-being and productivity of employees while meeting the needs of the organization. By following the comprehensive steps outlined in the ultimate guide to the return to office, businesses can ensure a smooth transition back to in-person work environments. From implementing the right workplace technology and fostering open communication to designing office spaces with intention and offering flexibility, each aspect plays a crucial role in creating a successful return-to-office strategy. Ultimately, by embracing these principles and adapting to the changing needs and preferences of employees, organizations can cultivate a positive and supportive workplace culture that promotes both individual and collective success.