Slowly, employees are being to return to the office as we near the end of the pandemic. For some, this is a welcome transition. For others, they have grown accustomed to working remotely and are hesitant to go back to work. For facilities managers that have been maintaining an unoccupied office over the past year, it can be challenging to encourage employees to return to work in a physical office. As employees fear losing the autonomy and flexibility they have been exposed to over the past year, managers must find ways to incentivize returning to the office.
Many managers make the mistake of making returning to the office mandatory, which can result in frustration and unwilling employees. Rather than forcing the return to work, managers can encourage employees to return to the office by simply communicating with them.
Create an Open Dialogue
Now that the option for employees to return to work is available, facilities managers are eager to encourage this. The problem today is that many employees are still reluctant to do so. Many have enjoyed the flexibility and autonomy that comes with working remotely. As employees can set their own schedules and maintain a better work-life balance, returning to work may not appeal to many. Still, facilities managers are trying to get employees back into the office space they have invested in. As a result, many managers are implementing a mandatory return to the office – but this doesn't seem to be providing the desired results.
If forced to return to the office, many employees claim that they would rather quit than do so. This is a significant problem for companies that cannot sustain to lose the workforce they have invested in, so they need to find an alternative method of encouraging the return to the office. Surveyshave shown that while employees enjoy working remotely, it is not necessarily the return to the physical office that is deterring them but the method in which they were instructed to do so. By forcing employees to return to work, managers create a hostile environment full of ultimatums and a lack of autonomy.
Instead, employees claim that they would be more willing to return to the office if open dialogue between management and staff is created. Including employees in this dialogue provides them a safe space to discuss what they need to feel safe in the office and their preferences for how often they want to work in the office. Employees can disclose their needs and concerns, which management can then meet.
With this information, management can encourage employees to return to the office with their requests in mind, ensuring that the office is a safe and positive environment. With clear communication, employees can feel heard and are much more likely to return to the office on their own accord, rather than if forced.
Benefits of Clear Communication Within the Office
Lowered anxiety. Almost everyone has experienced some level of anxiety regarding the pandemic. Especially concerning work during the pandemic, employees have dealt with a lot of uncertainty and confusion, so it is reasonable that employees may feel anxious about returning to the office. Will the office be safe? What precautions are being taken? Will I be able to work remotely if I need/want to? Your employees will likely have questions surrounding their return to work, so opening a dialogue with them can do wonders to ease their anxiety.
By including employees in the return-to-work discussion, you can answer their questions and ensure that they are comfortable and informed when returning to the office. In addition to their questions, there is also crucial policy information that you will need to share with employees prior to their return. With an open line of communication already open, you can introduce this information to employees in a non-threatening manner.
Once employees feel informed about their return to work, they will be more likely to embrace the transition. With lowered anxiety, employees will perform better in their work, experience greater job satisfaction, and improve their workplace relationships – all of which translate to a successful business.
Sense of belonging. An often-overlooked benefit of communicating with your employees is that it can give them a sense of belonging in your company. If employees feel that they are heard and included in meaningful discussions, they will feel more engaged with your company. As an employee, if you are kept out-of-the-loop, it can be easy to feel ignored and irrelevant - which is the last thing you want your employees to experience.
With improved engagement resulting from healthy communication, employees will be more productive and satisfied at work. Plus, if your employees are happy, it's more likely that they will want to return to the office to help your business thrive.
Autonomy. You hired the individuals in your office because they are intelligent and independent professionals. With this in mind, it is understandable that many employees are frustrated with a mandated return to the office. Over the past year, they have had the flexibility to work from home, managing their own schedule with more flexibility than they previously had.
By communicating with your employees about what a return to the office will entail, you can find a solution that brings them back to work while still offering the autonomy they have grown accustomed to. An excellent way to provide flexibility and autonomy while in the office is to propose a hybrid work week. This is a workplace model that allows employees to switch between working remotely and in-office.
Employees can appease management by working in-office on certain days while maintaining their autonomy by working the remaining days of the week remotely. Offering employees flexible solutions to returning to the office will encourage them to come back to work without it being forced.
Avoid Employee Burnout and Turnover
A significant number of employees claim that they would be likely to quit their current job if forced to return to entirely on-site work. As a manager, the success and longevity of your business depend on your workforce – so you must keep employees satisfied. By clearly communicating with your employees, employee turnover can be avoided, and employee retentionincreased.
When communicating with your employees, hear them out. Their thoughts and concerns are valid, so if they are unwilling to return to the office full-time, it is your responsibility to find an alternative solution. Allow employees to voice their frustrations and determine a balance of remote and in-office work that suits both management and employees. By discussing the implications of returning to work with your employees, you can find a solution that satisfies all.
In addition to the risk of losing employees, a lack of communication can significantly increase employee burnout. Many employees have experienced a lack of clear communication throughout the pandemic, which has led to increased levels of stress and burnout. It has been challenging enough to maneuver the confusion of this past year in our personal lives, so the confusion with the pandemic should not be an added stress. Opening a dialogue with employees allows them to voice their anxieties before it turns to burnout and a loss of talent.
It is clear that facilities managers are eager to get employees back into the office, but doing so forcefully will produce the opposite results. In communicating with employees, you can discuss returning to work in a healthy way that proposes their return as an option. With an open dialogue, management and employees can discuss their concerns and needs, finding a solution that brings employees back to work without increasing stress or losing autonomy.