With COVID-19 cases falling and the vaccine more readily available across the U.S., some employers have realized having people in the office is better for business.
Some employees are happy to come back, but others are not as willing. What’s an employer to do? You could force people to come back, but you don’t want to lose good employees—and it’s better for everyone if people don’t come back begrudgingly.
“We all know the old-school command-and-control style of leadership doesn’t work any longer, and that includes the issue of determining where people work,” said workplace trends expert and author Rick Grimaldi.
“Instead of dragging employees back against their will, it’s better to entice them with a collaborative, happy, innovative work environment they can’t resist,” he said.
Here are a few tips from Grimaldi for AV integrators to convince reluctant employees to return to the office:
Be sure everyone understands the “why.” Be very clear about your reasons for bringing people back to the office. When you level with them about your reasoning instead of giving a command with no explanations, people are more likely to respect those reasons and comply.
If you have changed your mind, address that. Some companies are just now seeing the value of having people in the office. Be honest about this. They will appreciate your candor.
Make your workplace a place they want to be. Employees don’t want to work in offices with bad cultures. Focus on building collegiate, close-knit, trusting, inclusive, and uplifting teams that inspire a sense of belonging in people. When people feel they have a “tribe” they will want to come to work.
Add policies that make sense for today’s workplace. Jettison those that don’t. Organizations found ways to digitally transform overnight, companies shifted to remote work, and flexed to stay afloat. Figure out which of the new practices that you adopted during the pandemic are worth maintaining—and which old practices you can let go for good.
Talk with people one-on-one to understand their hesitancy to come back to the office. A candid discussion with individual employees can help you dig deeper to find out why they may not want to return. Once you understand their reservations, you may be able to help them manage their concerns or solve the problem.
Make a case for mentoring opportunities. Young workers will benefit from the incredible wisdom and experience of senior employees, and more seasoned workers can rely on millennials and Gen Zers to help them develop digital skills, learn to use social media for marketing campaigns and adjust to an increasingly diverse and inclusive work environment.
Play up the return of trust. Without daily face-to-face interactions, people never get to know their colleagues and build strong relationships. But spending time with colleagues at work allows for the informal exchanges that help people get to know one another and eventually build trust.
Highlight the power of in-person collaboration. Chances are your employees aren’t getting a lot of chances to collaborate remotely. The best brainstorming and innovation happens in person—and anyone who wants to hustle and harness that creative energy will be eager to show up in person to do so.
Offer more flexibility around when and where people work. Many employees have gotten used to being able to pick up their kids from school or take an aging parent to medical appointments. Naturally, they don’t want to give this up. The solution may be to offer a hybrid model that allows people to be in the office part-time and remote part-time.
Make workplace safety a top priority. Even though vaccinations have driven down COVID-19 cases nationwide, employees are still concerned about safety at work. A focus on safety not only helps companies prevent disability and discrimination claims and avoid OSHA fines, it sets them up to recruit and retain top talent.
“Not only will these strategies entice people to come back the office more quickly, they will also help your organization attract top talent,” said Grimaldi. “When you make your business a place people want to work, you are more likely to maintain the competitive edge that leads to innovation, creativity, and success.”