After more than a year of working from home, employees are having mixed feelings about returning to the office. Some are ready to trade solitude for socialization. Others might not be so eager.
As an employer, it’s your job to give employees the tools and perks necessary for a positive transition. Here are some investments to make before your team members head back to their desks.
1. Hybrid Work Tools
The office is great for collaboration, but some employees thrive while working remotely. Many organizations will benefit from a hybrid model. However, you need to make sure you can juggle remote and in-person employees. Investing in hybrid work tools will keep everyone on the same page, regardless of location.
You might consider swapping desktop computers with laptops, so employees can use the same device at the office and at home. Communication tools are another key investment. Remote and in-office employees participate in the same meetings, so it might be worth upgrading your video conferencing program and sending everyone HD webcams. Ensure that your file-sharing and task management tools are up-to-date as well.
2. High-Tech Wi-Fi
If your employees are working on company laptops or personal devices, even the smallest businesses need business-quality Wi-Fi. Luckily, today’s high-tech networks offer more than just an internet signal. You can also use built-in tools to better manage a flexible workforce.
Plume Workpass, for example, offers small businesses rich insights and network security tools along with seamless internet connection. It also provides useful tools for businesses with a hybrid workforce. Leaders can use the network to track who is on and off site, as well as where in the office employees are working. These kinds of tools help employers better manage their teams.
Be sure to install your new Wi-Fi and test the signal strength before employees return to the office. This diligence will reduce IT hiccups as you adjust to a busy network.
3. Flexible Work Areas
The pandemic changed more than just office culture. It changed office design standards as well. Employers need to create an office layout that prioritizes health and flexibility, and this may require some new work areas.
If your office once had communal work spaces or desks in close quarters, invest in dividers to create individual work stations. You can then create one or two communal stations for those who prefer to work near others. Special areas for video calls may be necessary as well, since frequent chatter can be distracting.
Businesses with access to fresh air might set up outdoor work areas as well. Employees can retreat to these outdoor spaces with their laptops if the office feels cramped. Just make sure that the Wi-Fi signal extends past your office walls.
4. Wellness Programs
After the past year, everyone has wellness in mind. Employers need to give employees the resources to prioritize their health — both physical and mental. Platforms like Ten Spot offer your team everything from meditation and fitness classes to on-demand cooking and nutrition seminars. Whatever form your wellness program takes, the key is to provide perks that employees can actually use.
These wellness benefits might include meditation rooms, standing desks, and walking breaks. Employers may also provide free gym memberships or payment assistance for mental health care. If you aren’t sure what health resources are worth the investment, don’t hesitate to ask. Your employees will tell you which wellness aids they’re looking for.
5. Paid Sick Days
One of the best investments you can make is an upgrade to your employee benefits package. And this upgrade should include ample paid sick leave. There was a time when “toughing it out” was the norm. Post-Covid, however, it’s no longer acceptable for employees to come to work sick.
Encourage employees to take their sick leave whenever they’re feeling under the weather (even with a remote option). Yes, this will prevent germs from taking over the office. But a generous sick leave policy will also help employees come back to work feeling rested and recharged.
6. Child Care Assistance
Child care has been a serious challenge for parents during the pandemic. In October 2020, over half of working parents with children under 12 said child care was difficult to manage. Employers have an opportunity to take the pressure off.
As your employees return to the office, consider offering financial assistance for child care. Some organizations offer this support as a subsidy. If child care was the one obstacle to employees returning to the office, this financial help may ease the transition.
7. Pooch-Friendly Perks
Human children aren’t the only concern that employees have. It’s worth taking their fur babies into account as well. While working from home, many people took the opportunity to adopt a dog. They may now be hesitant to leave their dogs at home for the full work day.
Employers should consider allowing dogs at the office, at least part-time. A pet-friendly environment will improve employee work-life balance and relieve overall stress. Just be sure to have a screening process in place for pups and their owners. All dogs who visit the office should be fully vaccinated and well behaved.
8. Team-Building Events
After being apart for over a year, employees are likely eager to start interacting again. They just might need some help to get their rhythm back.
Organize employee events like cookouts, happy hours, and game nights. Outings such as trips to breakout rooms can also be fun and interactive. No matter your socialization style, these types of activities will help break the ice between colleagues.
There may also be new employees who have never worked in your office. Meeting over video isn’t as personal as meeting in person. If you hired staff during the pandemic, be sure to introduce the newbies to your team. You might consider organizing a welcome event to help everyone get comfortable with each other.
Whether your transition back to the office happens gradually or all at once, you’ll want to support your employees. It’s likely that this shift won’t be easy for everyone. There may be hiccups at first, but leadership has an opportunity to help everyone adjust. Your company can give employees the tools they need to feel connected and motivated going forward.