How can businesses attract their employees back to the office?

Claire Harkins, Regional manager of BMG

By Claire Harkins, Regional manager of BMG

THE final Covid restrictions in Scotland will be lifted on 21st March and all eyes in the business world are on the role of the workplace. At first, home working brought about a boost in productivity and employees enjoyed the improved work/life balance.

However, as the months have gone by some have started to experience home working fatigue. The lack of social interaction and blurred lines between work and the home have increased the appetite for a return to the office.

Numerous studies have suggested that workers want a hybrid approach and would like to spend two or three days a week in the office. But business leaders shouldn’t assume that employees will be happy working in a space that has not changed since they left two years ago.

The office is always evolving – the last two years have simply seen a faster evolution than we are used to. Companies need to work on an office plan that considers space management, employee wellbeing, health and safety and company culture to ensure that their employees are happy and productive in the workplace.

Space management

It’s likely that most businesses will be making changes to their space, whether that be downsizing or redesigning an existing workplace. Decisions may be based on the type of hybrid model being adopted (if any), maximum expected occupancy and functional requirements of the office.

The office will act as a collaboration hub so some companies may choose to remove the number of individual desks to create more social and creative spaces. That said, focused work is still important, so space needs to be created for quiet individual tasks.

It’s imperative that employees are consulted throughout the process. Survey and speak to staff often as their opinions will change – what they want from the office now might be quite different to what they wanted a year ago.

You may not be able to create a workplace that meets the requirement of every employee, but by keeping an open line of communication they will know you are listening and making decisions that are best for the group as a whole.

Furniture management

Space management changes invariably lead to furniture and equipment being discarded or replaced. This presents a great opportunity to act in a sustainable way. Carry out an audit of all items and determine what you no longer need. These items can be refurbished and reused, recycling or sold – landfill should not even be an option.

There are also charities across the country that accept office furniture and IT equipment, such as Business2Schools. Donating equipment to a local charity is another way to avoid landfill and also a good addition to a CSR report.

Employee safety and wellbeing

Wellbeing has shot to the top of the agenda for many employees. After feeling safe and well working at home, they require the same sense in the workplace. Consider having some desks with a little more room around them for employees that may not be fully comfortable being back in larger groups.

Communicate how you are making the office safe through risk assessments and cleaning regimes. Create a wellbeing plan with input from staff and be prepared to be flexible with it.

Unless you choose to mandate a return to the office, businesses will have to make the workplace a destination – a space where employees can be happy, safe and productive. Otherwise people may not return as hoped.

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