The HQ Return to the Office Guide
As Covid-19 cases begin to decrease, employees are returning to the office with a new set of expectations, especially when it comes to the commute and office environment.
According to a Microsoft-led survey in 2021, 41% of their global workforce would consider changing jobs in the next year, with an overwhelming 55% emphasizing that the work environment is a decisive factor in their decision to leave. Recent McKinsey research supports this further with well-being, flexibility, and work-life balance continually front of mind for employees.
All of this is pointing to a clear message: to retain top talent businesses must make the office environment, including the commute, comfortable, and convenient. After all, your workplace is a reflection of your corporate culture and a place for collaboration, and creativity. Below are our recommendations for a smooth return to the office.
- Make Safety a Priority
The height of the pandemic may be behind us, but this doesn’t mean our concerns related to workplace safety and exposure have entirely disappeared. At this critical time, plan and prepare for your employees’ return. This includes contact tracking procedures, including during the ride to work on corporate shuttles, readily available masks, and a sanitation process at both the office and on employee shuttles. In the weeks and months to come, it’ll be easier to review exactly the areas that require more or less attention and tailor accordingly. The goal here is to cover all the health and safety protocols so employees return feeling comfortable.
- Ask Your Employees
Whether through an internal survey or a more hands-on approach, now is the time to proactively gauge where your employees are at, and find out what they need from your office. It’s important to remember that at the heart of a great employee experience is… your employees! This means actively engaging with your team and creating different ways to share internal feedback. For those employees more resistant to returning, it’s time to find out why, and emphasis the positive benefits that come from working in the same space.
- Build A Return-to-the-Office Program
No doubt, some employees will be running back to the office, and others more resistant to extending the commute beyond their kitchen-cum-office workspace. We’d suggest considering a return-to-the-office program that consists of casual coffee chats, happy hours, and team lunches to build back-office life. We recommend planning safe back-to-work events, investing in team-building and return-to-the-office incentives. The first few weeks and months of return will be exciting, and also challenging, so keep an open mind and adjust plans accordingly.
- Take Care of Their Commute
Employee shuttles are a great way to help employees ease back into the route of commuting to and from the office every day. With our corporate shuttles, you can collect your employees from their public transportation hub, or provide a door-to-door service, to remove the hassle and overcrowding associated with commuting. Our health and safety protocols and contact tracing ensure that passengers get to work safely while giving you full control over passenger capacity, seat spacing as well as route planning. Providing reliable rides to work can improve employee retention while showing prospective talent an employee benefit that will make their life that much easier. Not to mention, USB charging ports and wifi for a more relaxing, and productive journey.
- Rethink Your Office Set-Up
For many companies, hybrid working will remain in place even with employees returning to the physical office. We’d recommend creating more spaces and meeting rooms to allow for team members dialing in via Zoom. This creates a sense of togetherness between at-the-office and remote teams. It’s all about inclusion, and collaboration both online and in-person.
- Communicate with Clarity, Consistency, and Compassion
Covid-19 has reminded us of the importance of communication in order to feel connected. The same rings true when it comes to communicating to employees regarding the return-the-office plan. It’s important to be clear, and consistent when sharing details. Approach with compassion that many employees may have concerns and some initial opposition to returning.
- Provide Practical Perks
Provide your team members with the tools that they’ll need to feel comfortable. From standing desks, wireless headphones, upgraded monitors to a great coffee machine for that perfect post-lunch caffeine kick. It’s is key to remember that after an extended period of remote work, there’s a desire for home comforts (and flexibility) so lean into these to make the office experience more enjoyable.
- Give Room for Mental Health & Employee Wellbeing
Creating a human-centered company culture means giving room for the mental health and emotional well-being of your employees. This invaluable support can have a positive at the individual and company level with increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and reduced absenteeism. After all, it’s hard to have a happy, and productive culture without a happy, and productive workforce. Here we’d recommend employees block off time in their calendars to take care of important personal matters, establish “meeting-free” slots, invest in employee assistance programs, and mindfulness meditation apps including Headspace for Work, and Calm for Business.
In the post-pandemic world, attracting, retaining, and growing your top talent is about creating a culture that meets the expectations of today’s workforce. This is a truly watershed moment with millennials taking more senior leadership positions, and Gen Z playing an active role across multiple industries. Following the Great Reshuffle and Resignation, employee retention and recruitment means leaning into flexibility, trust, and togetherness with a focus on well-being and work-life balance.
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