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How to encourage staff to come into the office more regularly?

Hello

since Covid we have continued to be really flexible with where people can work. Those on hybrid contracts are able to choose how often they work from the office, and some people don't come it at all or rarely. We have a core set of people who like to work from the office regularly or even every day.

We would really like to encourage more people to come in more regularly (and don't want to mandate this). We do various things to encourage this e.g. monthly free lunches etc. Does anyone have any good ideas of how we can improve office attendance? (We plan to do a short survey to get some feedback on what would help)

Thanks

Kate

4574 views
  • I guess you could start with articulating to your people *why* you want to encourage them to come in to the office more regularly, and work back from there? If it’s not obvious what the benefits are (for the employee or the business), they are not likely to change patterns that seem to work for them as they stand.
  • So I get a free lunch for travelling for 3 hours and spending £50? Not sure it strikes me as a great deal

    As Maya says you have to create a purpose and a reason that matters to them or it becomes punitive. The reason for being in has to be better than teh effort put in getting there.

    Training, collaboration, strategy, team work etc may all be part of the answer. But make sure there really is a point otherwise its simply will be counter productive
  • I agree that this is about starting with why. At the moment you are identifying incentives to make the office enticing - the key enticement should be that it is easier to do your job effectively from the office! There are extra benefits for some people such as socialising with peers, the office cakes and snacks, the water cooler chats... But the key benefits should be that it is better for doing your job.

    That leaves you free to keep the free lunches as an engagement tool and a reward! And avoids any difficult conversations if you're offering free lunches to those who come to the office, but others who have disabilities or childcare responsibilities can't access those benefits due to those characteristics...
  • In reply to Sophie:

    I would suggest that for many, working from home is easier/better for doing their job. My own role for example is far more productive when I am at home with fewer distractions.

    I do wonder if these exercises to get workers back into the office are more down to management feeling they have less control rather than productivity. Surely if a business were able to evidence a detrimental effect from home working, that would be all the justification needed?
  • We would really like to encourage more people to come in more regularly


    Just to add my own voice to everyone else's saying "why?"

    We've had quite a lot of questions about this and the answer is that businesses need to stop cat*-footing around this issue. Either office presence has a measurable impact upon outcome deliveries, or it doesn't. If it does, then that comes at a cost measured in square footage, energy usage and wear and tear, so you need to take a position on whether that cost is outweighed by the benefit to outcomes.

    It is inevitable that some tasks can only be done on site. Some tasks can be done better, more efficiently or more consistently on site. Some tasks can be done equally well on site or remotely. And a few can be done better remotely.

    Too many business leaders are falling victim to a range of logical fallacies when leaping to the conclusion that people need to get back to the office, whether it's lazy generalisation (on site working is better for some, therefore should be better for all); appeal to authority (Apple is going back to one sit working therefore on site working must be better); bandwagoning (everyone else is going back to on site working, so we should as well); correlation/causation (business X is doing better than us and they are all on site, so we should be too); anecdotal evidence (everyone I talk to is going back to on site working) or some toxic combination of some or all of the above.

    *The forum doesn't like the word I used instead of "cat" here.

  • I love going into the office because I genuinely really like my co-workers, however, I'm 99% remote most of the time and absolutely unwilling to travel a 4 hour round trip a day. We're a paperless office, so I have no on-site duties to attend to.

    I use my office days for big meetings (that are absolutely possible online) and to get socialising in to be completely frank, because my productivity goes absolutely down the toilet on my office days (I'm not someone who can concentrate in large open plan offices, especially with hot desking where if I don't get a relatively private place to work I spend most of the time looking over my shoulder worried people may see confidential stuff on my screen, or booking private meeting rooms to have confidential conversations etc. - totally pointless).

    Point being, I wouldn't want to mission down for a lunch. I would want to go to the office for something meaningful and worthwhile where I felt productive, and not actively like my productivity took a dive. Is that something that's possible at work? Are the office days actually used for collaboration and teamwork etc.? Or are people getting to work and then having to make online meetings?

    I think that's the challenge, making sure the office days are actually more productive than homeworking. Unfortunately it's pretty intangible for some roles without actual on-site tasks, and you might have a hard time convincing people.

  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    2 May, 2024 09:12

    In reply to Robey:

    Robey said:
    *The forum doesn't like the word I used instead of "cat" here.


    Wash your mouth out,  *

    * only joking. That was the filter talking...

  • I think the reality of the whole office/WFH debate comes down to this:

    For anyone in a "desk" job - myself included - who's hands-on work involves sitting in front of a screen, it's pretty much a given that they can do that at home with little to no impact on productivity. It was done throughout lockdown, other businesses still do it now, quite successfully. Using a screen in the office vs using a screen in my home office makes very little difference.

    The problem a lot of businesses have is that MANAGING people who are working from home is considerably different. You don't have the casual face to face time, you can't pick up on overheard snippets, you can't see things going right or wrong in front of you, you can't judge people's mood or frame of mind, or see if they are struggling. Managing people who are remote working requires structure, thought, routine. It's very do-able, but unfortunately a lot of managers are also the decision-makers when it comes to whether a business is pro-remote work or not, and it's a lot easier to tell everyone to work in the office than to change your own habits...
  • In full agreement with all of the comments here so far.

    The company I currently work for went fully remote in August last year. We no longer have a physical office space it was deemed pointless to have the office anymore. On top of the unnecessary cost, it limited where we could hire the talent and skills we needed, remote working has opened up our talent pool, we have people who are part of or managing global teams (myself included) so all their meetings are online anyway - where is the logic in someone being in an office and spending the whole day in a meeting room on teams?

    As everyone else has said, it boils down to the why. Why do you want people in the office, is it because some managers want (or should I say need) to be seen to be "managing", is it that the company is paying for a space and want to get their moneys worth or is it because there is actually a tangible benefit to being in the office are the teams actively going to benefit from it, is there work that truly cannot be done at home?

    Have the company's thought about what their plan is if once you've surveyed the staff and the response to "what would encourage you to come to the office more" is "nothing"?
  • Just thinking of some of the reasons that prevented me from going into the office when I was hybrid (and this was in two different companies):
    - are the desk set ups appropriate? I've had to do a lot of hot desking with laptop docking stations or phones that don't work, missing keyboards and mice etc.
    - what are you getting them to do when they come into the office? I would often go into the office just to do my normal work and spend all day in calls and meetings with people from other offices or at home, so there was no benefit from me physically being in the office - I had no time to talk to the other people there who also had their own meetings, and there was no quiet or private space for me to have these calls, so the quality of my work was suffering.

    I agree with everyone else that you need to sell the 'why' of why they need to come in, and make sure you're making the most of them being present by scheduling meetings like 1:1s that might be better face to face, training etc. If everyone's coming in and just doing their normal work which is potentially easier to do from home, there's not really any point.
  • In reply to Graham:

    This is the crux of what I'm saying - the enticement should be that it is demonstrably better for doing your job. That doesn't mean *employees* immediately see how much better it is, but if the business believe it is and feel they can demonstrate that, that should be enough enticement.

    I'm not debating whether the office or home is better for many people or for many jobs - because we're talking about the company where the original poster works and I know nothing about that company or their jobs. But I'm also not dead set against office working for the majority being the right option.

    If the company have decided that is the right path, instead of focusing on free lunches or other similar incentives, I would focus on why it is the right way of working for them. We shouldn't need to be incentivised to do our jobs (that is what remuneration is for). Incentives are there to enrich our work life, not to just make us do it in the best format possible.
  • In reply to Thomas:

    I would disagree with this. I am in a desk job and the majority of the people I work with day-to-day are in desk jobs. Those who work almost solely in the office are more productive because instead of sending a billion emails, they walk across the office to have a conversation and resolve something. The company struggles with a high volume of email traffic and the worst instigators of this are those that work from home regularly - because you just don't pick up the phone as easily as walking across to someone's desk.

    There is definitely a correlation between working from home and reduced productivity *in my business*. We can argue the cause - it could be caused by working from home or it could be caused by a culture. But we know that more office working has played a part in changing that culture for a good number of people.
  • All the other responses here have hit the nail on the head. Start with why. Use data/evidence rather than gut feelings or hunches. Act with purpose, and deliberate intention. Involve people.

    For more on this check out HR for Hybrid Working, published in June 2022, and look out for Making Hybrid Work Work, being published January 2025.

    Gary
  • In reply to Sophie:

    Those who work almost solely in the office are more productive because instead of sending a billion emails, they walk across the office to have a conversation and resolve something.

    This is an example of the kind of logical fallacy I mentioned before and probably falls into the categories of "correlation/causation" and "lazy generalisation". If this issue is that people send too many emails then the problem is not that some of those people work from home. The problem is that people send too many emails. There are plenty of tools - MS Teams, WhatsApp, good old-fashioned telephone call - that allow people to contact others without sending an email, but if you've got a culture that favours email or you haven't invested time and effort in helping remote workers to understand their options, how to use them and which are appropriate for what task then it's not fair to blame them for organisational failings and pulling them back into the office isn't going to solve the problem.

    And, if I may, sometimes resolving a problem verbally doesn't resolve the problem because (1) there's no evidence trail for the resolution of the problem, and (2) there's no reference for both parties to review to agree that the problem was resolved and how it was resolved.

    "Too many emails" usually arises from the kind of people who will email you to ask if you are available for a quick chat, just replying "thanks" to your email, or sending queries piecemeal in email after email instead of a single email for all points. This is nothing to do with remote working and everything to do with a business not having a clear position on what good communication looks like.

    Where there is a problem with remote workers sending too many emails is when there is a culture of assuming that people working remotely are just lounging around with their feet up having their third cup of tea of the day, which induces remote workers to send lots of emails to "prove" that they are working. So, again, the problem is not the remote working.

    You are 100% right that "If the company have decided that is the right path, instead of focusing on free lunches or other similar incentives, I would focus on why it is the right way of working for them." But *how* they decide that should be based on relevant metrics, not on fallacious assumptions.
  • What does 'more regularly' actually mean in this instance? What's the cadence/attendance sweet spot? Is it 'absolutely everyone in once a month' or 'happy for people to come in on an individual/team basis, but just more often than they currently do'? Digging into the actual practicalities might help with figuring out what that reasoning looks like.

    The wishy washy 'we just want people around a bit more' vs. 'we want you to come in on this date, for these specific reasons (company updates/presentation from senior management etc) might make it more reasonable (and therefore more palatable) for people. There will be plenty of people who've planned their lives around their working patterns - they will need notice/consideration to make this work.