How to soften the return to office blow

Navigating a return to office (RTO) initiative? Trust Beacon Hill’s experts to guide you with practical strategies for successful outcomes.

Let's be frank. Many workers who've been offered remote roles or extended remote and hybrid privileges since the pandemic are not excited about giving them up. After all, they feel they've regained some independence, extra time in their schedule and other major lifestyle benefits. Still, some businesses need their essential crew back in the office.

While it isn't realistic to lure all your former on-siters back, certain ways to message and enact return to office (RTO) efforts will lead to better results than others. Let's explore them together.

Give plenty of notice

RTO mandates can be shocking, especially for some of your team members who may have established new routines that depend on flexibility. If you want RTO to be better received, slow-rolling may be more successful than demanding employees return immediately.

To do this, begin by drafting a comprehensive communication plan and sticking to it. It will set expectations and provide target dates. This will give the impression of transparency to your team.

Detail their options

Some employees won't want to return to work in person. To minimize the fallout, begin considering alternatives for those individuals.

We're confident that you'll come up with lots of creative ideas, but when you're done brainstorming, explain how long your employees have to decide whether they still want to be a part of the company. And beyond that, endeavor to support them in their choice either way.

Explain your reasons

Requiring employees to return to their desks without clarity or by stating nebulous reasons like "collaboration is better in person" will not be appreciated. To avoid making a bad impression, provide across-the-board facts and actionable data to support why you are asking in the first place.

Pro-tip: Be aware that cherry-picked information or data based on a small sample can be sniffed out easily and will not resonate with the majority of your team.

Add new reasons

Certain employees, especially younger ones are craving mentors. If you didn't have a mentor program previously, consider adding one with a compelling in-person component. This is great for employee development and as a bonus can help with your cross-training goals.

Discuss their in-office needs

Some employees feel that they are more productive at home. That can be true for those who have to work in a hot-desking environment, but desperately crave heads-down time. If you want those types of employees to remain as productive as they have been remotely, ask them if they need walls or other concessions to achieve that.

Meet them in the middle

A hybrid approach has been a successful option for many employers. Ask your employees if that arrangement would help make returning more palatable. For some people, that option may even be preferred!

Optimize in-office days

If you opt to offer hybrid scheduling, try to make it more appealing by having people's in-office days be standard. No one likes to be in the office alone. That just reinforces the message that they could be performing their role remotely.

In addition, we recommend that you keep virtual meetings virtual. If you're not having team members come in for an in-person meeting, they may feel they could've stayed home.

Benefits

Review your benefits at large

Benefits are valuable in a competitive hiring environment and your team definitely has preferences. Consider this a time to trade their previous remote or hybrid benefits for other items they may value.

Offer to comp their commute

Business Insider reported that 80% of employees from a recent survey would come back to work if their commute costs were covered. While it may seem odd if you've never offered them before, a large number of employees now consider this non-negotiable. Many things have contributed to this outlook including inflation costs, longer travel times and whether realistic or not, the perception that could stay remote in the long term.

Compared with the astronomical costs of hiring new team members, offering a commuter benefit could be the more economical option!

Be more flexible

One of the aspects of remote work that employees have fallen for is flexibility. Flexibility to quickly get to their appointments, to take care of their families and to continue working while low-level sick. Though you may be asking them to come back to the office, offering enough paid time off (PTO) to attend to needs and being understanding when employees must move their schedule around (with the knowledge that they must make up that time later) can go a long way.

Consider a loyalty bonus

Another way to foster RTO goodwill is by offering a one-time bonus to show that you value their recommitment to the office. This money could be used toward making their in-office space more homey or functional, to offset commuting costs, to buy an updated wardrobe or simply could be saved. No matter what your employees choose to do, it will be appreciated.

Your RTO process will be more well-received if you craft it with your team in mind. Taking the time to understand how you can support them while achieving overarching company goals will serve you well. And if you have a few empty seats after you roll it out, we'd be happy to partner with you to get them filled.

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