Employers Up the Ante to Bring Back Their Workforce to the Office

Employers are increasingly pushing to get staff back into the office, despite data indicating that remote work remains a priority for employees across the U.S. To further incentivize in-person work, some employers have even implemented creative solutions, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Whether it’s offering special perks or providing additional benefits, employers are doing their best to make the return to the office as attractive as possible.

As the demand to return to the workplace increases, according to LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter, so too do the incentives companies are offering to employees who are willing to relocate. Not only have relocation packages grown larger, but the frequency of these packages is also on the rise, leading some to suspect that this could be a result of “productivity paranoia.”

As the workplace continues to evolve, Microsoft has identified a new trend known as “overwork anxiety” in their September 2022 Work Trend Index Special Report. Leaders are becoming increasingly concerned that employees are not working as hard as they should be, despite their increased hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics.

Despite being an “old-school way of thinking,” Jeanne Meister, Executive Vice President of Executive Networks, a peer community for HR leaders, believes that this is a more common phenomenon than people realize. Meister is determined to help HR leaders foster collaboration and create a more productive work environment.

In today’s uncertain economic climate, employers are increasingly cautious about the implications of remote working. They worry that without regular face-to-face contact, employees may not be as productive as they would be if they were in the office. Thus, employers must weigh the pros and cons of allowing remote work to ensure that their business is running as efficiently as possible.

The shift to hybrid work has posed a unique challenge for leaders – building trust in their employees’ productivity. According to a recent survey, 85% of leaders found it difficult to trust that employees were being productive in a hybrid environment. This sentiment was especially true for hybrid managers, who felt greater difficulty in trusting their employees to do their best work than their in-person counterparts.

The productivity of workers is a source of debate, with some reports showing that remote staff can be more productive, while others suggest that in-office workers have an edge. A November 2022 analysis by Gallup concluded that those with the highest levels of engagement were not fully remote or in-office, but somewhere in the middle. This suggests that a hybrid approach may be the key to unlocking the most productive workforce.

The optimal level of employee engagement can be achieved through highly collaborative work done on-site three days a week. This arrangement allows for a balance between the benefits of in-person collaboration and the flexibility of remote work.

An Industry-Wide Shift

Cerca Talent, a life sciences executive search firm, is seeing a trend towards employers emphasizing the importance of having their employees work on-site. President and Managing Partner Scott Rivers believes this is due to the increased need for face-to-face interaction and collaboration in the life sciences industry. This shift away from remote working may have an impact on the way companies hire and manage their employees in the future.

For many employers, the need to be in the office with their staff isn’t only about the financial benefit. Rather, it is a desire to be present and connected with their staff that drives their return to the workplace. It’s not just about the money, but rather the importance of fostering relationships and creating a sense of community within their team.

Rivers believes that having employees spend time in the office leads to a better culture, increased productivity, and better oversight. Companies want to encourage this kind of environment, as it ultimately leads to a more successful and efficient workplace.

As a leader, Rivers understands the appeal of an in-office mandate, even though it’s impossible for his employees due to their location. He empathizes with the sentiment.

Building a strong team culture is essential to success and nothing beats having everyone together in one place. The energy generated when colleagues work together in a physical space is palpable and energizing.

Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, it is often difficult to achieve this type of atmosphere when working remotely. However, with a little extra effort, it is possible to bring the team together and foster the same positive energy that can be experienced in an in-person environment.

Employers looking to get their staff back in the office need to provide a compelling reason for them to do so. According to the Work Trend Index report from Microsoft, a whopping 73% of employees need more than just the expectation of their employer to make them want to come back to the office.

Philip Rivers, an experienced professional, has observed a dramatic shift in what employees expect from the workplace. He’s noticed that employees are no longer content with just a standard job, but instead desire meaningful work that provides a sense of purpose.

Fifteen years ago, it was commonplace for ambitious professionals to make the bold move of relocating to advance their careers within an organization. Today, however, fewer and fewer people are willing to take that plunge, preferring instead to stay put and explore other avenues of professional growth.

Making the Office Worth the Commute

Companies are offering increasingly generous relocation packages in order to entice employees to move to their area and join the team. To add to this incentive, employers are also making efforts to ensure that their staff feel welcome and comfortable in the office once they have relocated.

Meister suggested a creative solution to help employees better balance work and life: flexibility with their schedules. By allowing for more freedom and autonomy in their work hours, employees can find a harmony between the demands of the job and their own personal needs.

Let managers have the freedom to choose the best schedules for their teams, instead of having all in-office workers stick to the same times every week. Give frontline managers the autonomy to determine how to manage their teams for optimal results.

Meister noted that the issue of pay equity cannot be resolved through simple fixes or mandates – it must be treated as an ever-evolving situation, tailored to account for the various job roles that exist.

Incentivizing workers to come into the office can be achieved through small but meaningful touches. Employers can stock the office with food, drinks and office supplies, or even go the extra mile by renovating the space. These efforts can make the office an inviting place for employees to come to, making the commute worth the effort.

Commuting can be an expensive and time-consuming experience, but it’s worth it if you have a vibrant workplace to go to. Companies must make sure their offices are ‘commute worthy’ and keep employees engaged and excited to come back to work.

As Meister said, “Nobody wants to make a long commute only to find that there’s no one at the office.” Employers must make a real commitment to creating an office environment that makes the commute worth it.

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