Six Ways to Make Coming Back to the Office as Sweet as Working From Home

Six Ways to Make Coming Back to the Office as Sweet as Working From Home

What defines the "new normal" in a post-pandemic world? Workplaces seeking a scheduling balance must adapt quickly if they want to drive retention and staff engagement, says Ian Moore of HR consultancy Lodge Court.

However, as we re-transition back to office life, one major question remains unanswered: How can employers make coming back into work as appealing as work-from-home (WFH)? Here are a few quick insights to help you.

But first, let’s look at where you stand as an employer.

Many people love working from home or part-time “telecommuting” – this isn't some new idea brought on by the pandemic. The problem is that these arrangements aren't always ideal for employers. From logistics issues to simply missing face time, managers and leaders often struggle to adjust.

This doesn't mean you should demand that everyone comes back in permanently, especially with the ongoing pandemic variant surges. Instead, consider what you're competing against: the reasons people like WFH. These include:

  • The lack of commute and positive impact on the environment : Not having to waste time in traffic is hard to argue with and reducing personal carbon footprints
  • Enhanced productivity: Around 60 percent of workers say they're more productive under WFH regimes.
  • Potentially improved equity: Some employees, particularly those from marginalised groups, believe that WFH policies may shield them from the perils of non-inclusive workplaces.

Not all employees are WFH enthusiasts. For instance, working mothers, who already tend to assume a disproportionate burden of childcare responsibility, might struggle even more if their partners fail to step up. One Italian study even suggested that the pandemic workplace norm might actually decrease workforce equity. Many parents have struggled to draw distinctions between their home lives and their at-home workplace roles since the beginning of the pandemic. In other words, WFH doesn't work equally well for everybody.

Not having to drive or being more productive are just offshoots of a deeper-seated motivation: people relish having freedom of choice in almost every aspect of their lives, including their professional routines. For instance, someone who likes WFH because they spend less time commuting, probably really enjoys being able to use their time as they see fit, not merely having an empty calendar. Similarly, a parent who has to juggle kids while trying to pay attention to Zoom calls might just be upset that they're not using their time efficiently, especially if they had a viable routine before the pandemic.

With these kinds of underlying motivators in mind, it's easy to chart a course for the ideal work-life balance:

1. Survey your WFH employees and those who are back in the office

Before summoning everyone back to the office, investigate what they feel they've gained – or given up – by working from home. We would also suggest that you understand how those employees who are working in the office feel. These responses will offer a good starting point for figuring out how you can improve the typical work week and to ensure the re-Integration of the workforce can be done In a positive manner.

2. Make social activities more rewarding

Virtual team-building activities have played a significant role in keeping many workplaces connected during the pandemic. As with their traditional counterparts, however, they aren't perfect.

Enhance your team building routine with activities that your employees will participate in because they want to, not just because they feel they have to. For instance, yoga, exercise classes, and opt-in team sports are all great ways to increase camaraderie without making it feel forced.

3. Give parents a bigger hand

Thanks to school closures, many working parents took on even greater burdens during the pandemic. Others might seem to be sailing along smoothly yet harbour new priorities and career outlooks. Devote special attention to accommodating these groups (whether by setting up onsite childcare or offering more flexible hours) to help lessen the load.

4. Stop yearning for the “good ol’ days”

Getting back to "the way things were" shouldn't be the goal. Although the changes have undoubtedly been tough, your company likely saw some benefits from adapting to the new lifestyle too. Why throw those improvements out the window?

5. Rethink the schedule

Think about your company's typical daily or weekly workflow. Do you notice any productivity gaps you simply can't overcome? These might be good periods for switching to optional in-office hours, and your workers will appreciate not being idle.

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to limit your service offerings or sacrifice potential profits; you might even save money by operating with a reduced on-site team during off days. Accommodating those who might have fewer resources or suffer increased commuting burdens is also a great way to promote equity of opportunity.

6. Make work more emotionally supportive

Health and safety has taken a front seat during the pandemic, but mental wellbeing is just as crucial to a high-functioning workplace. In addition to restructuring your business to be virus-resistant, try some of our tips for fostering emotional support  when WFH is no longer an option.

Above all, you need to look at the labour big picture: The happier your employees are, the better your company will operate.

Getting the best from your people is easier when you consistently make good-faith efforts to support their wellbeing. This can be a tall order under normal circumstances, let alone during a global crisis, so there’s no shame in getting external support for this, if needed.  ~ Stuart Gentle 10/01/22

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