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How to encourage a return to the office?

  • 01-11-2021 1:26pm
    Registered Users Posts: 2,191 ✭✭✭

    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.



  • Registered Users Posts: 13,582 ✭✭✭✭Dial Hard

    All the free sandwiches and social events in the world won't get people into the office who don't want to be there. Realistically, if management want/need people in, then they need to mandate it.

    We have to be in the office on Tuesdays, no ifs, ands or buts (unless you have Covid symptoms/are a close contact, etc, obvs). Can work from home the other four days or go in if you want. I'm currently not seeing the value in dragging us all in even one day a week, but I go cause we have to and the fact that it *is* only one day makes it bearable.

    So, while making attendance on a certain day compulsory may not be ideal from a culture/morale perspective, ime it's the only thing that will actually work.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 10,175 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    The question you should be asking is how YOU will adapt to the new reality. The world is not going back to the past.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,999 ✭✭✭Stone Deaf 4evr

    flexible start and finish times are a start, but you may as well be work from home really, as you'll still have a shortfall of people who should be having face to face meetings on opposite sides of a flexi time arrangement.

    Ultimately, it comes down to one thing. Money. people are saving by not travelling, and not meeting bores and timewasters. People have discovered the value of their time, be it the ability to pick up the kids from school, get a few jobs done , etc. They should be compensated properly for sacrificing that.

    as for lunches and beers, thatd have me looking for employment elsewhere, the last thing most people want is to spend more time with people they have no choice but to be around.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,634 ✭✭✭✭dulpit

    If there's an obvious benefit to the work you are doing, then being in the office is fine. But I know that I've been dragged to meetings that could 100% have been a simple email. I know a buddy who has a boss who is just old fashioned and believes that staff won't work unless they are in the office. In those scenarios, there's no reason why I'd volunteer to go in.

    I reckon as Covid (hopefully) goes away, a more organic approach to work will happen. People can work in the office or at home or combined based on need of the work that is being done. This whole "you must be in x number of days" or "everybody must be in office on x day" will (hopefully) fade away.

  • Registered Users Posts: 21,814 ✭✭✭✭ELM327

    The old idea of working at an office is dying out. That was accelerated by covid, but was happening before anyway.

    You won't be able to do this without mandating it - and if you do that, you risk staff attrition.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,893 ✭✭✭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. - 3rd & 4th Aug '24 (Tickets on sale now!)

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,191 ✭✭✭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: 10,634 ✭✭✭✭dulpit

    On your last point re. commuting time - that's a big issue, and even more so if you have kids. Who wants to spend 2-3 hours a day commuting, which is time away from your home and away from your family.?

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,854 ✭✭✭✭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.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,534 ✭✭✭bennyl10

    so effectively bully your staff to be in the office?

    even when we've seen over the past 2 years WFH works very well

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  • Registered Users Posts: 25,147 ✭✭✭✭Strumms

    Bullying employees so... hardly surprising though that you’d be advocating that :)

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 22,355 CMod ✭✭✭✭Pawwed Rig

    A day at the office.

    Up at 6 am get the kids ready for creche. Drag them out of bed and scream at them to get dressed, brushbtheir teeth, schoolbags etc. Race to creche for the minute it opens at 7:30. Drop them quickly as I have 5 minutes between dropping them and getting my train. If I miss the train I will be late. Leave desk at 4:30 (8-4:30) on the button to get a train back. Collect kids at 5:30. Do homework, have dinner, bask in their joy for 25 mins and put them to bed. Back to work for an hour or 2 .

    You can keep the free sandwich

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,854 ✭✭✭✭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: 2,453 ✭✭✭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.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 10,175 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    You management does not seem to have an issue with it. You on the other hand come across as depending on the office for social interaction... You need to build up a new social network not reliant on the office.

  • Registered Users Posts: 834 ✭✭✭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: 5,654 ✭✭✭storker

    I suspect that apart from the other benefits of working from home, many people are also enjoying the ability to put their heads down and concentrate for a reasonable amount of time without the incessant distractions that surrounded them in open-plan pre-pandemic hell. The people who study these things say that it takes 15 minutes to really get into a task and get productive with it. Every question from a colleague, every phone call, every loud conversation from another cubicle resets that clock and the 15 minutes start again (and some claim it takes even longer). Maybe some people love that level availability of their colleagues, but you be be sure that many of those colleagues feel very differently as they can easily go a whole week without getting into a productive groove. There's no need to reduce the number of questions asked per day if one is a little more structured about it .e.g. save them and put them in an e-mail, or schedule a 15 minute 1 to 1 conference call.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,854 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

  • Registered Users Posts: 894 ✭✭✭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: 29,118 ✭✭✭✭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: 938 ✭✭✭gauchesnell

    not sure why anyone would be in the office if they didnt have to....and Im sorry but I dont want social interaction or comradery with my work colleagues. Im there to work. I am back in the office in a blended format and so far no there is no benefit to me personally...just a longer commute. I actually find myself just looking forward to leaving asap due to the commute.

    As for incentives for coming into the office you need more than free lunches or social events especially during covid times. Even when Im in the office all our meetings are still online so yes you have the ridiculous situation where people are in the office are having online meetings with other people also in the office.

    I do have some colleagues who are happy to be back in the office but that is more reflective of their own personal situation (Bad wifi at home/lack of WFH space etc) not necessarily any additional benefits of the office itself.

    Personally I get a lot more done at home. Im not one for chit chat in the office anyway. Being back in the office has no benefit to me at all. As other people have pointed out those sectors who can WFH have proven how successful it can be. The idea of needing to be in an office Mon - Fri 9-5 is very 2019.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33,864 ✭✭✭✭listermint

    There's nothing tongue in cheek about bumbles advice. It's always written on old school crap micro management. Very much not results driven and by someone who consistently needs to know what's going on every minute of the day.

    These people are generally managed out of good organisations.

  • Registered Users Posts: 834 ✭✭✭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: 22,355 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: 5,726 ✭✭✭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: 11,909 ✭✭✭✭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: 11,909 ✭✭✭✭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