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  • Writer's pictureJoe Gilliver

Encouraging Employees Back To The Office With Experiences

Last month, the interesting news broke, that Apple has told all employees that they will be required back in the office. This is due to start later this month with all employees being expected to return, at least part-time. Office returns are something that UK companies have yet to decide on and definitely are not ready to commit to a date of return. This lack of decision-making has left the UK workforce in a state of unrest, not knowing what the future will bring. Amid rising costs of living, for many, factoring in going back to the office costs will take some time. Many have not had to budget in for extra costs such as extra childcare, commuting costs and work clothing for two years. This has led to employers having to work a lot harder to get people back into the office.

Of course, lots of people have been left asking the question, why do we need to go back? Is it down to productivity? Monitoring? Organisation? Or is it something more? With the pandemic leading to more people working from home and an increase in the use of communication tools, many companies found that working from home was not only productive but financially, the better option. However, companies have found that there is still a definite need for an office space, not to replace or change the work that has been done remotely, but to enhance it and offer something remote working can’t, a community. Many are ready to go back to the office and those companies that have offered places to go back in, have been overwhelmed by the demand.

The uptake in flexible work spaces around major cities shows that there is definitely still a need for a physical space to meet. Some companies are renting spaces to gather their staff monthly, if not more often in order to roll out new initiatives, discuss changes, or simply just to physically be in the same room again. Remote companies are turning to offsite get togethers as their staff are reportedly struggling more and more with the challenges that a remote, or hybrid working environment cause. With people battling with loneliness, stressful home situations or zoom fatigue companies are getting away from the office but still building a solid foundation for an empathetic and emotionally supportive work place, balancing the cost against that of running and office all year.

If employees are asking to go back, and companies are wanting to go back into the office, surely that should be simple enough to arrange? Sadly not, the demands of an office have changed post pandemic, the office has to battle against the rising costs for employees as well as changes in office structure and the need to be more flexible with work schedules, all whilst keeping their own costs to a minimum and engaging their employees throughout. Without that daily dose of office connection, the conversations around the kettle, and the good-natured office banter, many have felt their work engagement falter. Employers have had to rethink and invest in ways of monitoring and factoring in engagement to their new hybrid work environment.

With people coming and going more spontaneously to suit their own schedules, hot desking and organising conference rooms, offices have seen a rise in the use of hybrid workplace tools. Using desk booking software and communication tools are now commonplace, in order to help streamline the transition back to the office. All the while letting their employees know that this will be able to be done properly and at their own pace.

Employers are having to take a long, hard look at their offices and how they are working for their employees, rather than risking an empty office and a lonely day milling around the desolate breakroom, many are allowing teams to discuss days to come in, any are also changing the way the office is set out, rather than a uniformed desks and chairs layout, many are opting for more relaxed seating areas, breakout sections for collaborations and quiet zones to mimic the conditions people have been used to at home. As well as ensuring that peoples physical and mental wellbeing are being looked after., with revised lighting, wellbeing rooms and by thinking of ways to assist people in their daily routines at work.

Many of these changes don’t actually require a huge financial investment to tempt people back into the office, some are mainly looking at what can be done within offices to ensure that employees see that their return is meaningful. Whether that is activating a company initiative in some way, or having a celebration in the office to bring everyone together and celebrate a milestone. Here at Chameleon, that is exactly what we did for Paramount+, after months of their UK offices working tirelessly to launch their product in the UK, we were asked to assist in organising a launch party. And we are now working with Paramount on a 2-week installation in their office to activate their sustainability strategy, encouraging employees to come into the office to learn about it and get hands on experience with it. Employees know that they are not just going to the office to work, but for a deeper purpose.

Employers are sitting up and listening to the fact that employees just want someone to recognise that change is hard, but it looks like this change, is in the right direction.

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