Because of the pandemic, a new normal has remained in place for the workforce. Remote work has become the norm. The nature of working has changed.
As people find themselves going back to restaurants, travelling, or going to concerts, one thing that they're hesitant to do is to return to the office. Employers who expect employees to return to the office for a 40-hour work week are facing disappointment because most employees today prefer remote work.
A study by Team International revealed that 81 per cent of employees prefer not to go to the office at all or choose to have a hybrid setup instead, while 61 per cent would like to work two to three days a week remotely. About 27 per cent want to work remotely full-time, while 18 per cent want to return to the office full-time.
Some factors that prevent workers from returning to the office include commute distance, age, and current office models. About 60 per cent of employees admitted that saving money was one of their main reasons for not wanting to return to the office.
Despite these tough numbers, there is no denying that remote work also has negative impacts on employees' well-being and the company's productivity itself.
Because of remote work, employees experience less social interaction, particularly with people outside their families. There is a sense of loneliness among employees who work at home. In fact, according to a study by Totaljobs, about 46 per cent of workers in the United Kingdom experienced loneliness during the lockdown. Women and young people were explicitly affected by this.
But companies can help curb this loneliness, especially when employees return to the office. For instance, one thing you can do to encourage your employees to return to the office is reinventing the workplace as a social place.
Reinventing the office as a social place
Changing your workplace culture and establishing it as a social space for your workers will boost employees' desire to visit the office. According to a Harvard Business Review report, having more social time with co-workers will make employees return to the office.
The report suggests that 85 per cent of employees would be motivated to return to the office to re-establish team bonds. About 84 per cent would want to return to the office if they could socialise with their workmates. About 74 per cent would return to the office if they knew their friends were there.
To successfully return to the office (RTO), companies must ensure that socialising is an essential aspect of employees' work lives. Momentum Property co-founder Daniel Wood said that employees who might not have talked to each for a long while might need a chance to reconnect. Encouraging a sense of community within your company compensates for the time they lost during the lockdown.
Of course, it won't be easy to ease employees back into the office, so you should have special celebrations and events regarding your employees' return to the office. Make employees feel welcome and that you, as an employer, will take care of their well-being.
Create an atmosphere of joy in the office. Offer physically and psychologically nurturing programs that would be crucial in times of distress. Promote mindfulness activities, invite your team to enjoy and have fun, and set an example by using good humour to make things light.
All in all, reinventing your office into a social space will help workers reconnect with each other and curb traces of loneliness left by the lockdown. Find creative ways to encourage employees to return to the office through human-centric solutions.