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How to encourage a return to the office?

  • 01-11-2021 12:26pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,959 ✭✭✭ VonLuck

    I expect this topic to be met with a bit of negativity, but please hear me out!

    I work in a small office (circa 50 people) and we have largely been working remotely during Covid. There has been a return to a flexible working routine by many, whereby they would come in for as many days as they wanted. However, we've noticed that some people have either not returned at all, or only come into the office very occasionally.

    I'm not in upper management, nor am I someone that's focused on the profitability of the company, but can see the negative impacts it's having on the company as a whole. There is much less engagement between people (which we rely on), there is a lower quality of output (due to lower supervision / access to help) and most importantly, very little social interaction and comradery.

    I don't think a lot of people see the benefits from physically being in the office. Sure, there are occupations where remote working full time makes complete sense, but there are other roles where it does not. You have younger members of staff that need constant help (it's a lot more difficult to make a call to a manager asking a "basic" question than it is to ask your colleague sitting next to you), you have more experienced staff that learn new things or save time on their current task just from random conversations when getting a coffee and then of course there's the social aspects where you actually feel a part of the company and not some mindless and faceless job. I think the social parts are the most important and what makes where you work enjoyable and not something you dread doing day-in day-out.

    I'm not in the position of actually hiring or managing these staff, but I don't like how things are panning out. I'm very much in favour of flexible working and regularly take advantage of working from home, so I'm not one of these people who want staff to be in 24/7. I also don't like the idea of people being forced to come into the office. This would only breed resentment and people will look elsewhere for work where they offer more flexibility.

    So in reality people need to want to come into the office, particularly those who don't see the advantages I listed above. So how do you encourage people to return, even only on a limited basis? I'm thinking encouragement, things that would make you say "oh I don't mind going into the office today because of X, Y & Z". Is it maybe free lunches? Flexible start and finish times? Social events like beers after work? Would anything make you come back? I'd be interested to hear what you think.



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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,745 ✭✭✭ BronsonTB

    Company would need stronger policy in place with a clear need for office attendance - Maybe certain days are 'office only'??

    Overall management would need to see what works best for the balance between both but as you say if it goes on, risk of negative impact on the company. Not sure any 'encouragement' would work if the employee is against company back. Would need to be mandated that it's not a choice as such.

    BTB - Be sure to hit the 'Thanks' button please.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,959 ✭✭✭ VonLuck

    It's very difficult to achieve a consistent high standard of work remotely unfortunately. Work is still being done, but not as good as it used to be. Even personally I find that I ask significantly more questions when I'm in the office, and am asked a lot more questions as well, and it really increases learning as a result. I genuinely believe working from home 24/7 stymies learning and career progression.

    I think your last point is a key one. People in our office generally get on very well together. High attendance at work nights out and people actually socialise with each other outside of work, all pre-covid of course. It's something that's great to see and a reason why staff retention is high, because everyone gets on with one another! The last thing you'd want is someone who has no interest in chatting to you out of a work setting. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what someone wants, but it doesn't work well for our company. It is easier to discuss work with someone who you've socialised with. Kind of breaks down a wall where they become more approachable in an office setting.

    Stronger policies run the risk of loosing people. It will inevitably come down to that, but in an ideal world there should be incentives in place in advance where a mandatory number of days in the office a week is not seen as something painful.

    I wonder, is the main part of the problem commuting time? I'm under 30 minutes from my office and so it's no big deal for me to go in for the day and might be easy for me to suggest returning to the office. I imagine it's a lot more of an effort for those living an hour or more away.

  • Registered Users Posts: 24,122 ✭✭✭✭ Mrs OBumble

    As a worker there's not much you can do, except for demonstrating the better opportunities and career progression available to people who show up, and refusing to pick up the slack from the stay-at-home-sammys.

    If you're scheduling meetings, do them for school pickup times, and if someone say "no, I have to pick up my kids" make sure everyone knows why the time change (ie shame them into arranging suitable childcare).

    If you're ever in a position to influence hiring, favour people who live close by.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 24,122 ✭✭✭✭ Mrs OBumble

    Did you even read the first post in the thread?

    The standard of reading comprehension you've displayed is one of the reason off-site working isn't as effective as co-location.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,391 ✭✭✭ FGR

    I take it you're being tongue in cheek here?

    So if you're not available to attend a meeting as you have explosive diarrhoea then it's alright to call that out, too?

    Also - if that is encouraged then expect a lot less trust and far more lies to be told. Work return will not improve.

  • Registered Users Posts: 824 ✭✭✭ Heart Break Kid

    Why would you want people to return? Is the company performing to the same standard prior to covid?

  • Registered Users Posts: 303 ✭✭ .42.

    When the circumstances are right and companies have followed guidelines, many companies will have their staff return to office.

    There won’t be ifs or buts.

  • Registered Users Posts: 24,122 ✭✭✭✭ Mrs OBumble

  • Registered Users Posts: 859 ✭✭✭ FlubberJones

    Heading back to the office on Thursday, it has opened since Monday but I'm just being too lazy to go back yet.

    I know a number of people who've gone in and found the place really empty, with most taking the non compulsory attendance option.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,191 ✭✭✭✭ Wanderer78

    offer better childcare options, heavily subsidized, free if possible,

    flexible working hours, particularly for parents,

    hybrid system,

    subsidized travel arrangements, free if possible,

    four day working week

    better pay and conditions

    more paid time off

    package that, and you have a winner

    covid has caused people to reflect, and theyve had enough of the working world, as its clearly not truly designed to meet their needs, hence movements such as the big quit!

  • Registered Users Posts: 824 ✭✭✭ Heart Break Kid

  • Registered Users Posts: 303 ✭✭ .42.

    employees can reflect on getting new jobs if the refuse to return to office when required.

    people think working from home is the future…. This bubble will have burst for most by this time next year.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 21,094 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Pawwed Rig

    Possibly but I started a new job recently and negotiated a permanent hybrid arrangement during the interview process. 2.5 days in office and 2.5 at home. I am sure others could negotiate a similar arrangement

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,256 ✭✭✭ The J Stands for Jay

    Flexible starting and finishing, free breakfasts/lunches and free after work beers were all things in my job before Covid. That's not going to get me back in the office. Productivity is up massively since we left the office.

    As for forcing people back, surely you could wait until the government actually stop recommending us all to work from home

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,178 ✭✭✭ Flinty997

    If you want to work and promote a cut throat environment thats your choice. Just don't be surprised when someone leaves you high and dry when you need support from them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,178 ✭✭✭ Flinty997

    Better terms and conditions and flexible hours. More rewarding work. Good atmosphere. Good opportunities. Good management, structure. Clear and achievable objectives. Sense of progression, learning opportunities, ,

    However the environment you describe even when you were in the office, doesn't sound like that. You can hardly sell people a vision that they already know is not true a second time.

    Post edited by Flinty997 on

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  • Registered Users Posts: 303 ✭✭ .42.

    I think that’s a bit different as you were hired during a pandemic.

    There will be no mention of WFH or hybrid working in most peoples contracts and large scale companies are in long leases on office space. They will get everyone back into the offices to justify leasing the office spaces