Proponents of advancing the work from home model have a solid argument: employees working from home are more productive.
Fair enough. Employees working from home can be more productive for all the obvious reasons:
- No distracting office drama (gossip, petty politics, confrontations, etc.)
- Fewer interruptions from people who forget you need uninterrupted time to think and concentrate
- Not as many impromptu, informal meetings lacking real purpose
- Chatty co-workers on Zoom can be muted
- Ability to multitask during videoconferencing when conversations go off topic
- No commute time
So, it’s easy to understand why many employees are putting up a resistance to returning to the office
But employers who want employees to return to the workplace have a much stronger argument:
Productivity is not the only metric that matters. It’s not even one of the top three.
Working remotely comes at a cost to other metrics or key performance indicators that drive growth, sales, market share, and profitability. Those metrics keep a company competitive in every regard, such as:
Do I need to go on?
Simon Sinek, best-selling author and a recognized authority on company culture, has said on many occasions that innovation, learning, and building meaningful relationships cannot happen when people work in isolation. They happen when people bump into each other and have those brief, 90-second conversations.
They happen when people say, “Let’s grab lunch.” Relationships are built when people ask each other about their weekends, how their mom is doing in the hospital, or if they watched the Bucks win the championship.
It’s why Zoom isn’t, wasn’t, and never will replace: human-to-human interaction. (Would you have married your spouse if you never met in person – only through Zoom?)
So how do you motivate people to want to come back to the workplace?
The fact of the matter is that only 12% of people want to work from home, full-time, according to a Gensler study.
As much as this may come as a relief to many of you, it’s by no means an absolute percentage. For example, you may have 16, or even 20% of your employees wanting to work from home, 100% of the time.
Consider five ways you can motivate your people to return to the office:
First, the most obvious solution is to offer a hybrid model where office presence is only required two or three days each week.
Make sure the days you select are required for all remote employees because after all, it’s pointless for someone to make a thirty-minute commute if other remote workers didn’t make the trek in. There cannot be collaboration and team-building if only some people show up.
Second, if you want to attract people back to the office, make your office attractive.
Many of your employees have had plenty of time over the past sixteen months to create their ideal working environment. Anticipating the possibility of permanently working from home, or at least over an extended period, they may have created their ideal working habitat by purchasing new home office furniture, a higher-quality computer monitor, and wall art.
Some may have repainted a room, improved their home-office lighting, have learned to enjoy the serenity of background music, and have established new routines to make their at-home work life more enjoyable.
One company I know of went through the effort to refresh and remodel their office spaces with the help of an interior decorator to make work life at their office more enjoyable. Employees were impressed. Even some of the most stubborn work-from-home advocates warmed up to at least splitting their time between home and office versus not coming back at all.
Third, consider hosting more training and mentorship programs.
According to a CNBC survey, nine out of 10 employees say they are happier with their jobs when in a mentoring relationship. Can you think of a better way to build trust, relationships, confidence, and competence in your company?
Fourth, let your people know that although productivity may have been on the rise while some worked from home, other KPIs have suffered, which simply isn’t sustainable.
When metrics such as innovation, teamwork and learning suffer, an organization couldn’t possibly expect to survive, let alone thrive. In other words, people need to know that productivity is only one of many metrics that matter when it comes to growth.
And fifth, work with returning employees to adapt your culture to one that focuses on productivity and efficiency.
It’s baffling that some employees are required to spend upwards of 20 hours/week in meetings, some of which are not relevant to their positions or functions.
If you, as the CEO were to do the math on how much it costs to tie people up in, at times, unnecessary meetings, it may be enough to make some significant changes.
In the UK, a recent study found that the average person’s attention span is 14 minutes long. Despite this fact, the average meeting is 60 minutes, while some exceed two or three hours. No wonder why people don’t want to return to the office.
The “new normal” could be a better “normal” by making these changes and improvements.