After nearly three years of working from home, what kinds of incentives does your company need to offer to bring your people (happily) back to the office?
This is one of the biggest questions on the minds of people managers the world over. After all, it has significant implications for employee engagement and retention. And yet, it doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer.
The right approach will vary based on your business and your people, but it will certainly call for a mix of both monetary and workplace culture perks.
Here are a few things you can consider.
Monetary perks to inspire your team’s return to the office
On one hand, there are some key monetary incentives you can offer to your employees to offset some of the costs incurred by foregoing work-from-home and heading back into the office.
Shifting back to in-office work can pose challenges for parents, especially when it comes to childcare.
As an employer, you can ease this stress with incentives focused on childcare.
While most organizations can’t provide daycare in their workspace, you can support your staff with complimentary access to nearby daycare centers or by helping to subsidize their childcare costs.
During the pandemic, 25 million households in the United States added a dog to their family. For context, that’s nearly one in every five homes in America.
And now, these new dog parents are trying to figure out how to handle their pandemic pups as they begin to return to work.
While it might seem like a small thing, it can weigh heavily on the minds of your pet-owner employees, and you can help alleviate their stress with perks like:
- Pet Care Stipends: Providing stipends to cover the costs of professional pet care services can alleviate concerns about leaving pets alone and ensure they receive proper care and attention.
- Pet-Friendly Workdays: Designating specific days or, if feasible, allowing pets in the office every day, creates a pet-friendly environment that allows employees to bring their pets to work, fostering a positive work-life balance. We understand how important this is for pet parents which is why our iQ Offices location at 545 King Street West is pet-friendly.
- Pet Insurance: Considering offering pet insurance as a valuable benefit, demonstrating the company’s commitment to the well-being of both employees and their pets.
While this won’t necessarily benefit everyone in your company, it’ll go a long way for many of them. It’ll also act as an attractive benefit for potential future hires.
Working from home provided employees with the ultimate convenience when it came to their workday lunches—they no longer had to pack food to bring to the office or pay to dine out if they forgot their own food.
While paid lunches might seem like a simple incentive, they can be an effective way to generate enthusiasm for the return to in-office work.
This can include things like catered breakfasts and lunches, whether daily or on a weekly basis, as well as upgrading your office kitchen to have high-quality coffee and healthy grab-and-go snacks and meals.
When you work at a flexible workspace, you’ll typically have many of these things included for your staff—at no extra cost to your company. At iQ Offices, we offer complimentary snacks and beverages and a breakfast program as well as happy hours where your staff can socialize and unwind as a team and with an extended community of professionals.
The daily commute is one of the biggest uphill battles when it comes to bringing your team back to the office.
Research has shown that 79 per cent of employees feel eliminating their commute was a big plus of remote work—and this is no surprise when you consider it saves them an average of 72 minutes each day.
That’s why providing commuting benefits is more than a nice-to-have as people return to work. It’s essential.
You can consider perks like:
- Enrolling your team in fuel discount programs or providing fuel gift cards
- Offering paid parking for your employees
- Offering public transit passes or unlimited public transit vouchers
- Setting up up a company ridesharing account that people can use if they’re in a pinch or have to be at the office extra early or late
You can also consider your employees’ geographic locations and think about setting up satellite workspaces for local teams that either may not have access to your central office or who might face an extensive commute to get there.
Workplace culture incentives for long-term in-office success
While monetary perks are valuable incentives for bringing your team together in real life, it’s infinitely more important to prioritize long-term initiatives that support employee engagement and align with your team’s expectations of their workplace.
Think of it this way: in the past few years, your team got used to the flexibility of working from home. That is to say that they’ve been able to work when, where, and how it suits them best.
For example, they could start their day at their desk, head out to their patio for an hour to get some fresh air while they work, then wrap up their workday on the couch as they comb through their emails or tie up administrative loose ends.
The point is that they’ve been freed from the confines of sitting sedentary at a desk all day—and you need to reimagine your workplace accordingly.
If you want to incentivize your team to come back to in-office work, then your office needs to align with their expectations by providing a diverse array of spaces where they can work how it suits them best.
And, since isolation has been a big challenge for remote employees during the pandemic, your workspace should also be designed for engagement and collaboration.
While it can be tough to overhaul your entire office, considering new options—like private offices or serviced office suites at a flexible workspace—can provide you with access to a full suite of turnkey amenities and a variety of workspaces for your team to utilize.
Research has found that 64 per cent of employees would be more inspired to go into the office if they knew their team would be there.
This goes to show the value of team events, like happy hours or group wellness events.
Rather than viewing your office as just a place where work gets done, think of it as a place that provides your team with the much-needed social interactions and interpersonal bonds that help them live a happier, and more fulfilled life.
Serviced office spaces often provide these social activities for their members, meaning your team can enjoy social events on a regular basis without any planning required by your company’s leaders.
After years of virtual meetings, nearly a quarter of employees say their Zoom fatigue is at extreme levels.
So, as you bring your team back to the office, you can’t ask them to settle for monotonous, energy-draining meetings.
Instead, rethink the way you meet with your team. This can include things like booking fully-appointed meeting rooms with best-in-class technology and incorporating whiteboarding sessions into your company’s repertoire.
A whiteboarding session is an interactive meeting where your team uses a physical whiteboard to visually discuss and illustrate ideas, plans, or problem-solving strategies.
Unlike static, one-way meetings, these sessions encourage collaboration, creativity, and effective communication by allowing your team to sketch diagrams, write notes, and create visual representations together.
If you don’t have to bring your employees back to the office full-time, you can consider implementing hybrid scheduling for your team.
In doing so, you allow your employees to come into the office when they want or need to while offering them the flexibility and convenience of working remotely that they’ve grown accustomed to.
Development opportunities and facetime with leaders
It’s long been theorized that working from home can hinder professional development due to a lack of hands-on leadership and in-person interactions with senior team members.
This would explain why 40 per cent of employees would prefer facetime with leadership over other perks like parking stipends and commuting benefits.
When bringing your team back together in real-life, prioritize training and development and make sure your leaders are visible and available.
It’s an essential component of employee engagement and will play a key role in incentivizing employees to return to in-office work.
Inspiring your employees to come back to the office requires the right mix of monetary perks and long-term corporate culture incentives.
But it’s also a great opportunity to get introspective about how you can increase engagement and retention while making your company even more enticing to prospective employees.
If you’re looking for an inspiring workspace that’s designed for collaboration, interaction, and flexibility, book a tour of your local iQ Offices location today.
Kane Willmott is the co-founder and CEO of iQ Offices, the largest independent Canadian- owned co-working operator with offices in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. iQ Offices provides beautiful office spaces with safety, service, privacy and design at the forefront.