Home Business Insights & Advice What workers want before returning to the office

What workers want before returning to the office

by John Saunders
8th Jul 22 1:33 pm

There’s no denying that remote working has many benefits. Research shows that working from home not only supports a better work-life balance but also improves employee productivity. In one study, remote workers were found to have spent only 27 minutes of unproductive time  — 10 minutes less than office workers.

For employees, the workplace changes caused by the pandemic have also transformed the way they view work. According to a Rada Business survey, 45% of workers are either “extremely or very interested” in making remote work permanent, and 80% said they’d at least want the option to work remotely on some days (i.e., a hybrid working setup).

These attitudes present challenges for companies that need their workforce to return to a shared, physical workplace. Now that employees have taken a liking to remote work, how can managers convince their people to come to the office?

Employee reasons for resisting a return to the office

First things first: why are employees resisting going back to the office?

Apart from the obvious answer that working from home is more convenient, employees also have specific reasons for wanting to work remotely. These include:

1. Health concerns

Let’s face it: while things have mostly returned to normal in London and the rest of the UK, the threat of COVID-19 still looms large. In other parts of the world, masking and social distancing guidelines are still in effect. Managers need to be mindful of their teams’ concerns about health and safety and take steps to ensure their wellbeing and protection.

2. Need for freedom and flexibility

Flexibility and remote work often go hand-in-hand. Working outside the office typically comes with the bonus of choosing where to work, when to start and finish, and when to take breaks. This can be a massive relief for employees who want flexibility in their jobs — a view shared by 71% of UK workers.

3. Time and money savings

Working from home means not having to commute to the office. This translates to employees having more time to enjoy their day and saving thousands of pounds in transport costs each year.

These time and cost savings, in particular, go a long way for parents. It means less money spent on childcare costs and more time being with the kids.

4. Need for trust

Employees have always wanted to feel trusted. A study by Payscale shows that 72% of workers whose managers trust them to act and make decisions on their own are satisfied with their jobs. Conversely, when employees don’t feel trusted, productivity and engagement often suffer.

Providing employees with the ability to work remotely means that managers have to relinquish some degree of control over them. Forcing workers back to the office means a loss of that autonomy.

How to convince employees to return to the office

Different people are motivated by different things, and you’ll find that whilst there are prevailing attitudes when it comes to remote work, your people may still be receptive to the idea of returning to the office under the right circumstances. Here’s what you can do to get there.

1. Listen to your team and get their feedback

The best way managers can learn their team’s thoughts and misgivings about returning to the office is to have an honest and open conversation about the matter. As simple as it sounds, many managers and executives make the mistake of simply announcing a date for when everyone is expected to return to the office, as though the last two years of the pandemic haven’t happened. Do this, and you’re likely to antagonise your people.

Take time to talk to your team and get a clear picture of their concerns and what they need to return to the office. This will help you make informed decisions moving forward.

2. List their objections

Next, you’ll want to list your team’s reasons for resisting the return to the office, which you can then address through adjustments and concessions.

For example, your team may share misgivings about health and sanitation in light of COVID-19. You can use this information to guide your health and safety policy. If they’re concerned about rising transport costs amid inflation and rising petrol prices, consider transport subsidies such as railcards and cycle-to-work schemes.

3. Introduce hybrid working

For better or worse, the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the office. Now that workers and managers have seen firsthand that remote working can work, it’ll be  to spend all five days of the week in the office again.

Hybrid working presents an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. For employees, it means being able to work remotely and visiting the office on select days. For managers, it means reaping the productivity rewards of remote work whilst creating an environment for face-to-face interactions and collaborative work.

New attitudes require a new approach to the office

It’s important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to welcoming employees back to the workplace. Take time to understand why your team is resisting a return to the office and find ways to turn their misgivings into an advantage for your organisation.

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