How to Craft a Return-To-Office Strategy That Works for Everyone

It was just a few years ago when experts were touting remote work as a permanent part of business life. But it did not age well. Things like maintaining corporate culture, C-suite disdain for remote work, and much more contributed to over 90% of companies calling for a return to office in some form by the end of 2024. 

This puts managers in a difficult position. In some cases, employees have been sold remote work as part of their employment packages, and were told that they were more productive working from home. Staff are understandably resentful of return-to-office policies and need to understand the rationale behind them in order to readjust to working in the office. 

While management has a number of reasons to bring employees back, it is necessary to address employee concerns directly in order to get them completely on board. What you do not want to do is follow the model of the federal government, which has instigated a forced return-to-work in a way that has reduced confidence in senior leadership - you can read more about that here.

A Remote Only Approach Actually Isn’t More Productive Now

There was an exceptionally high volume of data which showed that working from home was more productive from 2020 to early 2023 for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the pandemic. In many cases, workers who were forced to work from home made that setup work, and work well, in order to keep functioning during lockdowns. 

In early 2023, the data started showing that at-home workers were becoming 10-20% less productive than their in-office counterparts. Reasons for this could be decreased motivation, worsened internal company communication, and the unraveling of company culture in the face of so many individual silos. 

Essentially, when everyone was working from home, it worked. When some employees were in the office and some weren’t, we saw decreased productivity. Interestingly, hybrid work showed the same level of productivity with consistent in-office days; again, everyone was working the same way, which may be why. Consistency is key to maintaining productivity across the entire company. In fact, Prodoscore data shows that hybrid workers are more productive than remote only employees.

Addressing Remote Work as Part of an Employment Package

When you can show your employees the data about decreased productivity due to inconsistent work models, some may be more understanding. But others will definitely highlight the fact that they negotiated remote work as part of their package. To get this group on board, you need to find out what will work for them and offer incentives. According to two surveys conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, this is the key missing ingredient of a return-to-office strategy at most businesses. 

In many cases, you may be dealing with parents who now have to pay for daycare in a high cost-of-living area. If that’s the case, a daycare supplement may help, with an equivalent benefit for those who don’t have children, such as extra paid time off or a commuter benefit. In cases of parents with very young children, you may be able to negotiate more of a hybrid work arrangement until the children are of school age, such as 2-3 days in the office instead of five. Whatever the arrangements are, make sure they are transparent and equally distribute benefits to everyone to stave off employee disengagement.

Craft a transparent return-to-office policy

This is where your human resources department comes in. Once you have negotiated what will work for everyone and have executive buy-in, put everything in writing and distribute the policy to all team members, from new hires to people who have been there since the founding of the business. Make sure there is a clear blueprint showing equal distribution of benefits between parents and non-parents, for instance, and make your company’s unique case for return-to-office. 

Even if your company can’t construct a life raft of incentives, having this policy alone will give your people a clear rationale to return to the office and show that you want to address their concerns. 

While working from home isn’t a thing of the past, it looks like a remote-only approach is not the way forward. Crafting an employee-centric strategy for in-office or hybrid work, or at the very least addressing staff concerns with a transparent policy, will go a long way towards maintaining morale and easing everyone back into the office, either full-time or a few days a week. 

Prodoscore can help you monitor staff productivity anywhere they happen to be working. When you know how productive people are regardless of where they work you can use that data to reward the people who are putting in the work at your organization. Contact us for a demo today!

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