How to Attract Employees Back to the Office

After more than 2 years of remote-first work, many companies are calling their white-collar employees back to the office. Tech giants Google and Apple are ramping up to full hybrid schedules (3 days in-office, 2 days flexible), while Investment Banking heavyweights like Goldman Sachs are already back in person, although not without rising discontent among their ranks.

Are you having a hard time convincing employees (especially younger members of the workforce) to return to in-person work? Here are a few ideas for you to try out:

Courtesy of the New York Times

Brute Force

Some countries have passed laws protecting workers’ rights to work from home, but most (including the US) have no protections whatsoever! Just demand that your employees to come back to the offices, like JPMorgan Chase did. Sure, they’ve since backed off on returning to office full-time thanks to pressure from junior bankers, but you don’t have to cave so easily. If you keep insinuating that “real team players” who come into the office are more likely to be considered for promotion, you’ll eventually win over those Type A rockstars you like to recruit.

Panem et Circenses

Remind people why the office is hip and fun! Tech companies are again leading the perks parade, with benefits ranging from a cupcake social at Clio to a Googlers-only concert performed by Lizzo at the Mountain View headquarters. Other companies are experimenting with an array of other perks, including pet stipends and more informal dress codes. Sure, employees could just take care of Fido at home in their sweatpants, but the joys of sitting through a 2-hour All Hands meeting with everyone squished into one room (and a box of donuts, of course) are more than worth it.

Perfect Attendance Awards

Who doesn’t love a little praise? Give employees who show up to the office every day a little certificate at the end of the fiscal year, or maybe enter them into a raffle to win a car.

Pro: the current United States K-12 education system has primed your Millennial and Gen Z employees to chase the thrill of receiving these awards. Con: increases chance of someone coming in while sick, which is the exact opposite lesson to have learned after years spent living through a global pandemic.

Source: LinkedIn

Just Don’t

In case it wasn’t obvious, the past few suggestions were all satirical. Your employees have spent the past 2 years demonstrating that they can work perfectly fine from a flexible remote work environment, even in high-stress times; if they don’t want to return to the office, maybe you should be flexible, too.

Companies like LinkedIn (disclaimer: I currently work at LinkedIn but views are my own) are pursuing a team-based approach to hybrid work along the lines of “you’re all adults, figure out what works best with your team and do that.” For those who do go into the office, spaces are set up to foster connection over lunch, in passing, or for planned meetups amongst friends and colleagues. This is backed up by LinkedIn’s broader research: 87% of employees across companies and sector want to be remote at least half the time, flexible work arrangements are a top priority for job-seekers, and remote-first jobs got 50% of applications (even though they make up less than 20% of job postings).

I’m interested in going into the office more over time, but I don’t want to be forced to do so. My view of the office has changed substantially — it’s now a place I go to socialize, strengthen connections, and enjoy a little serendipity along the way. It’s not necessarily the place where I’m going to be at “peak productivity”, nor does it need to be.

As we reconsider the future of work, it’s okay to embrace new modes of working. Talk with your employees, not over them, and develop a consensus that works to the benefit of all.

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