Should we be doing more to encourage staff back to the office?

Should we be doing more to encourage staff back to the office?
Arthur Wilson
Arthur WilsonArthur Wilson Digital Marketing Freelancer

Posted: Fri 5th Apr 2024

In the wake of the pandemic, the United Kingdom has emerged as the work-from-home capital of Europe.

According to The Guardian, for a significant number of individuals, the transition has been nothing short of revolutionary, particularly for those battling burnout, parents, caregivers and those who have saved substantially on commuting costs. This evolution raises a pertinent question: should there be a concerted effort to encourage a return to office-based work?

The case for returning to the office

The benefits of office work cannot be overstated. Proximity to colleagues and managerial visibility foster an environment ripe for training, progression, collaboration and creativity. The tangible presence in a shared workspace accelerates learning curves, enhances team dynamics and nurtures innovation.

Beyond the immediate workplace advantages, there are substantial economic implications. Increased office space rental, travel expenditures, and patronage of local eateries and pubs contribute to a vibrant local economy.

However, the narrative is not one-sided. A return to the office is not without its drawbacks, including increased fatigue, stress, burnout and the financial burden of commuting.

For some staff, particularly those with disabilities, office environments continue to present significant accessibility challenges.

The stick or carrot approach

To address these challenges, some businesses have adopted a mix of incentives and ultimatums to coax employees back to the office.

Tactics range from threats of termination in the face of economic downturns to more positive incentives aimed at making the office a more appealing place to be. This approach underscores the complexity of balancing business needs with employee wellbeing and preferences, as documented in reports by Business Insider and Forbes.

Creating a compelling office space

The essence of encouraging a return to the office may well lie in the quality of the office space itself. Gone are the days when sterile, white-walled offices with harsh lighting could be deemed acceptable. Today's workforce seeks environments that not only facilitate productivity but also wellbeing and creativity.

Office refurbishment plays a crucial role in this new paradigm. An inviting, well-designed office can significantly boost employees' desire to return.

From ergonomic furniture and natural lighting to communal spaces that encourage social interaction, the right office refurbishment can transform an office into a space that employees are eager to come back to.

A rethink of what the office is

In reimagining the return to the office, businesses must also reconsider what the office represents.

No longer merely a location where work is accomplished, the modern office should be envisioned as a central hub of activity a place where employees come together to collaborate and innovate, to meet and plan.

This conceptual shift views the office not just as a workspace but as a 'home' for staff when they need one, a foundation from which the business can thrive and grow from within.

This realignment necessitates that the design and space planning of offices feed into this new vision. It's about creating environments that foster a sense of belonging and community, where the office design reflects the dynamic activities and interactions that occur within its walls.

Spaces should be versatile, accommodating both focused work and collaborative projects, integrating technology seamlessly and offering areas for relaxation and socialisation. This approach ensures that the office becomes a place where employees feel valued and inspired, eager to contribute to the collective success of the organisation.

A balancing act

The debate over encouraging a return to the office is multi-faceted, balancing the undeniable benefits of in-person collaboration with the personal and economic costs to employees.

As companies navigate this complex terrain, the focus should not solely be on the physical act of returning but on creating environments that support and enrich the workforce. With thoughtful strategies, including strategic office refurbishments, businesses can craft spaces that not only meet but exceed the expectations of today's employees, making the return to the office not just a mandate but a choice that employees are keen to make.

Communicating change

Employers must convey not only the practical benefits of the refurbished office spaces such as ergonomic setups and communal areas for collaboration but also the broader vision of the office as a central hub for innovation and community. This message should underscore how these changes aim to enhance employees' work experiences, support their wellbeing and foster professional growth.

Creating an inclusive dialogue is essential in this transition. Employers should invite feedback and suggestions, making communication a two-way street. Providing regular updates and maintaining flexibility within the new office-centric model is key. By keeping staff informed about progress and celebrating milestones, businesses can build a sense of community and anticipation.

Acknowledging the importance of flexible work arrangements and integrating them into the new model ensures that employees feel their needs and preferences are respected. Through strategic communication, businesses can smooth the transition back to the office, fostering a workspace where employees are not only willing but excited to return.

Relevant resources

Arthur Wilson
Arthur WilsonArthur Wilson Digital Marketing Freelancer

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.