When the pandemic arrived, it brought with it a huge change in how many businesses had to operate. While remote working had been an option for some already, most organisations hadn’t embraced it, despite the technology being available. This would change as lockdowns and social distancing rules meant some workers had to work from home. As the world moves on, there’s been stronger calls for staff to return to work in person.
While there will be some staff happy to return to the workplace, others will be hesitant to do so. The working landscape has changed, and there are benefits to remote working for some people who make that method work for them.
While employers may want, or even demand, staff return to the workplace, that could work against them as some people may not want to give up their new routine and working habits. There are ways to encourage this transition, however.
The Three Common Working Patterns
There are three main types of working patterns that businesses are using in the modern business world. The chosen pattern largely depends on the business and how it operates, with some companies relying on face-to-face interactions or operations, whereas others can operate online through technology and tools.
Understanding these patterns makes it easier to know which your business is following and which one you’d prefer to be using. There are advantages and disadvantages and disadvantages to each pattern, but there’s more to think about than just operational factors - how your staff prefer to work also matters.
1. In The Workplace
The most common working pattern for most businesses is to have staff working from an office or workplace chosen by the business. This is a central location, whether it’s a shop selling goods or an office providing services. A business might have multiple locations where staff are either required to work at or can work from.
Having everyone together makes it easier for workers and teams to communicate, as they are often in the same place. Teams can also work closely together and ensure they’re aligned and focused on the right goals.
Given the cost of commercial properties, businesses will want workplaces full and utilised to get a good return on their payments.
2. Fully Remote
The opposite of in-person work is to be fully remote. Staff work from home or locations away from the workplace, keeping in touch through communication software and time management apps. With a desk at home, office equipment can be delivered to wherever it needs to be to allow employees to work easily.
Daily commutes become a thing of the past and people can spend more of their free time doing what they want. The opportunity to work for companies across the country - and even the world - is also present with remote working.
However, this is only possible in certain roles and industries, where face-to-face contact isn’t essential.
3. Hybrid Working
The balance between these two working patterns is a hybrid option. This involves some time spent in the workplace and the rest of the time at home. This is seen as both a compromise and the best of both worlds, ensuring staff have social contact with each other but giving employees the chance to have some flexibility with their working schedule.
The exact balance of in-person or remote working is determined by the company, manager and staff. It could be one day in the office or four with the rest at home. Whatever the balance is, it requires equipment at both locations the employee works at, which can be an extra cost.
Why Do You Want Employees To Return To Work At The Workplace?
Before deciding to bring staff back to the workplace, you should think about the reasons why you want to focus on in-person working. While some industries require that kind of working environment, others can work just as well remotely and some staff who have flourished away from the workplace won’t be keen to return.
There are any number of reasons why a business owner or manager might make this decision, but making a choice for the wrong reason will not only push staff away, it could threaten the success of the organisation. Where data is available, this can help you make the right choice - or put resources in place to make the transition easier.
Keeping Staff Accountable
One of the biggest concerns with remote or hybrid working is that employees might not be doing what you expect of them. There is no easy way to check on the progress of work or ensure staff are not wasting time when they aren’t in the office. There are tools that can help track time spent on tasks, but it does require trust and honesty for this system to work.
However, people don’t like managers and bosses looking over their shoulders and watching how they spend every minute of their day as it makes them feel like machines - or cogs in the machine. This devalues staff and lowers their morale, so it’s something to address regardless of where employees work from.
Getting Value From The Property The Business Is Based In
Given the cost of commercial property, whether bought or rented, it’s understandable to want to make sure you get the most out of it. A large office that sits empty while staff work remotely is not good value, especially when your business does need a physical location for some functions.
However, this presents an opportunity to find a more cost-effective solution for your business, if the size of the workplace can be reduced. You can also look at other ways to use the workplace, such as for the community or as a new source of income.
If bringing employees back to work is important, then you will have to look at what can make the workplace more appealing compared to the comforts enjoyed at home.
It’s Considered Normal
One of the most common reasons given to encourage employees to return to the workplace is because it is normal, and it’s what was expected before remote and hybrid working gained popularity. This is true, but a business that doesn’t adapt to the needs of its staff and customers will struggle in the long run.
If you can use data to back up any claims that being in the workplace is better for staff and the business as a whole, this will have a better chance of convincing workers to return to work, but if it’s seen as a company pushing for a change for no good reason, staff will look elsewhere for the perks and flexibility they are currently enjoying.
What Are The Challenges Employers Face In Bringing Staff Back To The Workplace?
While some employees will be ecstatic about returning to work at the office or workplace, others will be less keen. This is largely down to their personalities and the environments they prefer to work in. Workplace culture also plays a part in whether people want to return, but this culture should exist in person and remotely.
When deciding to encourage workers to return from remote working, you’ll have to think about the obstacles and challenges some workers will bring up. Without a plan to address these factors, it’s less likely staff will be willing to adhere to your plans.
The best way to discover these challenges is to listen to staff and take time to consider what they say, but we’ve gathered some common factors.
The Daily Commute
The amount of time staff spend travelling to and from work quickly adds up. Before remote working became popular, this was just an accepted part of the jobs people accepted. Not everyone can live close to work, and those who don’t drive rely on public transport. These factors all played a part in applying for and accepting job offers.
Working from home means the commute is from one room to another, making the journey to work take seconds. This free time can be used for hobbies, activities, or simply spending time with family. This is a big lure for a lot of people looking for a better work-life balance.
Creating A Productive Work Environment
Some staff like the bustle of an office. They thrive on the social interactions, the noise, and the ability to talk to any member of staff in seconds. Other people find this environment overwhelming, and this impacts their performance in ways not realised until they were able to work from home, which is a more calming and productive place for them.
Forcing these people back to the office will affect their productivity, focus and energy levels. The worry is this won’t be taken into account and they’ll be judged as what they did remotely.
Separating an office into loud and quiet areas isn’t always possible, especially with people in the same team often having different personalities and needs, but being able to address the needs of everyone to get the best out of them can help sway them to return to the workplace.
Providing A Compelling Reason
The biggest thing you have to do is provide a real reason for the change to working patterns. Simply doing so because it's how things used to be, or how they should be, won’t convince staff who benefit the most from remote or hybrid working.
Given that there are a lot of job opportunities available, and other businesses offering flexible working schedules and models, forcing staff to do something they don’t want is only going to push employees to your competitors.
Data on productivity, targets being met, business growth and more can make for a compelling case and show staff the reasons for making this change is based on what is best for the company, rather than sentiment.
What Can You Do To Encourage Employees To Return To The Workplace?
With these challenges in mind, you can look at ways to make it easier for employees to return to the workplace. This is an opportunity to address the changing needs of work and what people expect from employers. They spend most of their day with you when they’d much rather be doing other things.
While you’re not there for them to have fun and relax, looking at the culture of the business, how the workplace is structured, and what may drive them to the competition allows you to think of ways to appeal to staff and keep the best talent for longer.
Show The Benefits Of Being In The Workplace
One of the most effective ways of convincing staff to return to work at the office or business instead of staying remote is by showing the benefits of being in the workplace. Whether it’s the social interactions, the equipment available, being able to work with people instantly - and so much more.
You can also help people maintain a better work-life balance if you notice people working late or not being able to switch off at the end of the day when they work from home. Using office phones for calls, for example, means staff don’t need a work phone - on top of their personal device - and it is a great way to have meetings that aren't in a public place. There are a lot of benefits to being in the workplace, you just need to show them.
Be Flexible With Employees
Understand that working remotely has allowed staff some flexibility that they didn’t have before when they were in the workplace every day. Whether that’s being able to take a delivery, or going to an appointment, being at home means they have more opportunities to handle whatever life throws at them.
Work is important, but by telling employees nothing else matters but the business is only going to drive them to your competitors. If they have a reason they need to take a break or work from home on occasion, giving them flexibility shows you care about them, which increases their loyalty to you.
Promote Workplace Wellbeing
Workplace stress and workplace wellbeing are two sides of the same coin, and is one of the reasons people choose either remote or in-person working patterns. It’s not about having a chill out zone or a table tennis table for staff to use for five minutes of the day, but about how they feel while they work.
If the office is loud and boisterous, this will cause some people to feel stressed and anxious, for example. It’s unavoidable at times, but looking for solutions can help those people who are nervous about returning to such an environment. Make it clear there are spaces and channels to support people who are struggling, and show workplace wellbeing is important to you.
Even workloads can contribute to workplace stress, and this is something that applies to everyone, no matter where they work.
Offer Hybrid Schedules
Life can often be about compromise. Managers and employers can sometimes feel they have the power to make unilateral decisions, but more people are willing to change jobs for better conditions. If staff want to remain remote, but you want them to be at the workplace, then a hybrid approach could work better, allowing both sides to reach an agreement.
The number of days spent where is negotiable but by offering this solution, you will show staff you hear them, and are working to find a solution that benefits everyone involved. Hybrid working also encourages people to improve their planning and schedule, assigning tasks based on where they are and what would work best for the work or project.
What Is A Phased Return To Work?
Once the decision has been made to return to work in person and move away from remote working, the next step is to determine how this will work. It’s not as simple as saying that the next week is when everyone must be back in the workplace.
Staff might have childcare to sort before returning to the workplace consistently, or family obligations. They may need to source transportation, too. Returning equipment to the workplace should be handled by the company, and this needs to be done at the right time to minimise disruptions.
A phased return to work can make the transition easier. It means that staff will return gradually, and that might involve some hybrid working for a period of time until in-person schedules return completely.
What Is The Government Guidance On Returning To Work?
Since the government lifted all restrictions, there is nothing forcing businesses and staff to work remotely. Some organisations have found this model works for them, as have some staff, but there is no longer an obligation to keep this if the business can benefit from working and operating in a different way.
The government guidance on returning to work can change at any time, especially as the pandemic is not over. Returning from illness is also something to be addressed, but this is now depending on the business rather than the government.
Want To Know More About Helping Staff Return To Work After Remote Working?
Convincing staff to return to work in person rather than continuing remotely is a big task, and it can’t be achieved without a lot of consultation and planning. Abrupt decisions that are made arbitrarily could result in employees leaving your business in search of more favourable conditions elsewhere. This will cost you time and money to both hire and train the new hires.
While you need to keep in mind what works best for the future of your business, without staff it will be hard to operate, let alone be successful. Consulting with staff as to what they think will ensure every view is heard and considered, which makes employees feel valued even if the decision is not one they’d ideally like.
If you’d like to know more about how to help staff return to in-person working patterns, get in touch with the team at The Hub Events today.