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Seven tips on how to get staff back to work in the office

Are you a business that is struggling to get staff back to work in the office? You are not alone, in fact, you are the majority.

There have been state government incentives, rebate schemes and promotional campaigns aimed at reigniting the spark lost by Australia’s biggest cities, which, for the most part of two years became ghost towns as the pandemic swept across the globe. In spite of all the effort, companies are still struggling to get their workers back in their city offices.

According to Jenny Folley, businesses are struggling to come up with ideas to encourage their workers to come back to the office. Demanding staff to return will not work.

Jenny Folley

Jenny Folley is the founder and CEO of @WORKSPACES, Australia’s leading premium brand of coworking and private office spaces with sites across the country and overseas.

“While there are undoubtedly many benefits of working from home, many businesses do require workers to return to the office for a range of reasons. Workers do not respond well to being ordered to return, particularly in this labour shortage market. Businesses need to work harder to support staff back to work,” Folley said.

Folley has outlined some tips to help businesses.

  1. Have an up-to-date FLU and COVID-safe plan for the office

“It’s really important that your company remains vigilant when it comes to COVID and flu safety. Ensure you have policies in place to deal with social distancing, testing and sick leave, as well as what would happen if a worker gets COVID or the flu, or has to isolate,” Folley said.

“A lot of people are still very uncertain about returning to work. While life does seem to be returning to some sense of normal, safety is still a key priority for a lot of people.”

  1. Open channels of communication

“In this highly volatile post-pandemic era that we’re living in, we are coming out of COVID limbo, but finding that many people actually enjoy working from home,” Folley added.

“By having open and honest communication with your staff, you will be better able to manage their expectations about the return to work. If they’re apprehensive about returning to work full time, perhaps start off with a couple of days a week.

“Outline the benefits of returning to work as well. Energy costs are up. By working at the office, the need for energy use at home during the day reduces.”

  1. Flexibility

“Offering flexibility is another key component in bringing workers back.

“While working from home, people got used to having a more flexible work/life balance,” Folley explained.

“So you need to offer this flexibility in the office as well. For example, you could offer a longer lunch break if some workers would like to use the time to get personal errands or exercise done. Early starts and early finishes are a good idea, as well as school hours that allow people to drop the kids to school and pick them up, and drive in non-peak hours.

“A lot of work places are finding success with a hybrid model where workers do a couple of days at home per week and the rest of the days in the office. Many workers feel like this gives them the best of both worlds. In fact, many people would be more motivated to return to work if they still had the option of doing a couple of days at home.”

  1. Offer more breaks and relaxed working arrangements

“This can be seen as another facet of flexibility, but offering more breaks to your workers can be a positive thing. When working from home, a lot of workers had the freedom to have small little breaks from their work in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing so at work,” Folley said.

“They might feel that if they’re at work, they’re expected to be at their desks all the time, which can lead to them feeling rather chained to their desks. If staff work with lap tops, let them roam free and work in breakout areas, the kitchen, at the coffee shop.”

  1. Make work fun

“Incentivising people to come back to work is important. Fill the fridge full of snacks, drinks and treats,” Folley said.

“Organise pizza days. Get a massage therapist in to provide at-desk shoulder massages. Have pet days. Set up a calendar so people can bring in their significant fury other. Cut the formalities and allow more casual clothing. All of these things can help to create a sense of energy and fun around the office.”

  1. Travel allowances

“It’s no secret that inflation is at an all time high. Petrol prices are sky rocketing and public transport may not always be an option. In any case, public transport is fairly expensive too. Perhaps introducing some travel allowances would take the sting out of going to the office for some of your workers,” Folley suggested.

  1. Incentives

“Incentives are an important mechanism to entice people back to work,” Folley said.

“Enabling people to accrue additional paid leave simply for working in the office may be a good way to incentivise people to come back into the office. A points system may also work that goes towards an end of year bonus

"Provide complimentary snacks and drinks. If you can do it, provide lunch on certain days as well. Install a coffee machine in the tea room for those that love their coffee”.


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