The past few years have brought seismic shifts in where and how we work. Many of us saw a hurried transition to remote work amidst the pandemic.
As many companies solidify return to office (RTO) plans, managers face fresh challenges getting remote workers back at their desks for at least part of the week. Meanwhile, employees cite everything from work-life balance to productivity and cost savings as reasons to keep working from home.
Leadership teams need an office strategy that addresses employee concerns while bringing teams together to collaborate and innovate in future work. The key is balancing business needs with empathy. Your team wants flexibility but also craves genuine human connection after years of Zoom meetings.
With some creative planning focused on their needs, you can use office returns to rebuild company culture and ignite new energy.
Challenges of Getting Remote Workers Back in the Office
You’ve likely faced resistance from employees who are hesitant to give up remote work when planning back to the office returns. Their pushback stems from a few key factors.
Strategic Plans That Have Failed in the Past
Many initial office strategies focused heavily on office mandates, such as:
- Requirements for all employees to be back in the physical offices full-time
- Set office days without flexible work offerings
- Strict return to workplace timelines
These directives often overlook what matters most to employees. Such rigid plans tend to fail. Employees' wishes are overlooked when companies restore business productivity and culture at all costs.
What Remote Employees Value Most Now
Great leaders tune into what employees need to comfortably return to physical offices through surveys and conversations. Above all, employees returning to the office want:
- Flexibility and work-life balance: This means supporting hybrid schedules where employees still have home days for focused work. They also want a balance between office policies and their personal needs. A McKinsey post-pandemic survey shows that 52% of employees prefer a hybrid model, while 11% desire a fully remote work arrangement.
- A voice: Employees crave transparency and input into office strategy changes that impact them. Keeping leadership decisions to yourself breeds distrust and disengagement.
- Intentionality: There has to be a tangible value-added incentive for employees to give up remote days and commute into the office. Whether it’s meaningful team building or innovation sessions, the office days must feel worthwhile for the hybrid workers.
How To Implement Bringing Employees Back Based on What Works
Armed with insights into remote worker priorities and resistance drivers, you can now develop office return plans that intrinsically excite employees. Set your strategy up for success with these best practices.
Start with Surveys and Focus Groups
Kick things off by asking employees what they need to return to the workplace happily. Anonymous employee surveys give space for candid concerns, while focus groups let you dive deeper.
Listen without judgment and take detailed notes. Compile key themes around desired office policies, hesitations, and suggestions for rebuilding workplace culture.
Design Hybrid Schedules Around Work-Life Balance
Based on your survey results, design weekly schedules balanced set office days with work-from-home flexibility. You might start with a hybrid model where key teams share two to three in-office days for collaboration and meetings.
Build in extra at-home days for employees with care demands or health factors. Confirm which parts of employees’ roles truly require being together in person before finalizing any office requirements. Balance means employee happiness.
Invest in Your Physical Space
During extended work-from-home stretches, your physical offices likely sat dormant. Now is the time to revive office spaces into vibrant hubs where people are excited to work.
Hold a brainstorming session for employees returning to the workplace to share improvement suggestions. Invest budget and resources into revamps based on their input. Things that can help teams feel valued include:
- Ergonomic workstations
- Collaboration nooks
- Updated tech tools
- Simple comforts like great coffee
Plan Connection Opportunities Beyond Meetings
Your people need to gather for progress meetings, strategy sessions, and check-ins. However, it's important to creatively plan other connections that rebuild office workers' bonds after years of remote work.
Shared lunches, coffee breaks, and optional happy hours let teams engage casually as they return to work. Bring experts for enrichment workshops tied to professional development goals or self-care. Schedule outdoor walking meetings when possible. And don’t underestimate the power of water cooler conversations in helping build organic connections.
How Scoop Helps Teams Get Together in the Office
As a leader navigating hybrid transitions, it can be daunting to seamlessly coordinate team in-office days and support work-life balance when planning a return to office. That’s where Scoop comes in.
Unlike clunky enterprise software, Scoop lets you instantly schedule collaborative office days and in-person meetings. Employees simply access Scoop from inside their existing tools to indicate availability. Bring certainty and clarity to who's office-bound for collaboration sessions while allowing employees control over their hybrid work schedule.
Get started with Scoop today. With Scoop powering the coordination, you can focus on what matters most — fostering genuine connections in the workplace.