Real estate is the second biggest expense for most companies. With that type of price tag, it’s important to secure a return on your investment. When it comes to office space, that looks like better space utilization, effective resourcing and engaged teams.
Traditional office culture meant real estate was a 1:1 investment. Most people were in office for the majority of the week on a 9-5 schedule. If you had a team of 100, you found a space for 100 people and didn’t have to think too much about occupancy.
Hybrid work flipped that script on its head. More flexible schedules mean more unpredictable office activity, an equation which is leaving many executives wondering “does the office need to get right-sized?” But there is more to this calculation than just having the right square footage.
Executives need to think more critically about the goal(s) of the office. What really motivates people to come into the office? What do people need when they are in the office? How can leaders make those in-person benefits more accessible?
We’ve laid out five tactics for getting people back into the office, so you can get the most out of your real estate investment and increase your team's productivity.
1. Create Connection, Build Culture
When you consider the fact that employee disconnection is one of the core drivers of voluntary turnover, costing companies as much as $406 billion a year, setting the foundation for connection becomes not just a question of culture but a matter of protecting your bottom line.
We’re all social creatures and despite the narrative around hybrid work, this isn’t a battle between employees and their employers. In an Axios survey of employees, 74% of respondents said they miss having an office community. Connection is what drives culture and people want to get together.
A recent PwC survey found that 48% of CFOs are concerned about a loss of culture due to flexible work.
Leaders need to make it easier for people to connect with each other in-person. This starts with providing teams with the right information to make better decisions about when to come into office. Can your teams easily see upcoming office activity? Are you actively communicating new events and activities at your headquarters? Do you provide opportunities for people to connect?
Building an intentional culture of collaboration within your organization will drive more people to your spaces. When you make these relationships possible, you can make busy offices a reality.
TLDR: People want to see other people, show teams who will be in on what days to drive office activity. Increase engagement and connection in your workplace so you don’t waste budget or lose your top talent.
2. Design Your Office Around Data
What is the job of the office for employees? It’s two-fold. First, the office must be able to support the work your teams do. Second, these spaces should serve as an HQ for your teams.
It’s up to leaders to create the right kinds of spaces for their people. No one wants to make their way into an office if it doesn’t serve their needs for the day. This means considering resources, technology and layout. Workplace analytics should serve as a northern star for your entire strategy.
By using data from your current office, you can create spaces that address the needs of your teams. You discover what people like and what they might like a bit less. And that means you can fine-tune the workplace experience to fit your people and fuel performance. Remember: Better experiences lead to busier offices.
The added bonus? Finding out what is being used and what isn’t is an opportunity for considerable cost savings. Under-utilized spaces can be repurposed or downsized, data on resources can ensure you have the right amount of equipment and analytics can help you better forecast future needs.
TLDR: Don’t take shots in the dark, use your own workplace data to create spaces that reflect how your office is being used, so you can get the most out of your real estate investment.
3. Create Opportunities for Face Time with Leaders
For employees, getting face time with managers and executives plays a big role in their decision to come to the office. In fact, our latest research found that if people are asked to pick between free parking or the chance of one-on-one time with a manager or executive, 40% said that in-person connection was more important to them.
This rings especially true for generations earlier in their career. According to Microsoft, 78% of Gen Z and Millennials are looking to connect with senior leadership in the office and 80% come in to get time with their direct managers. Axios also found that 66% of people prefer in-person feedback from their managers, rather than receiving an email or connecting on video chat.
40% of CFOs consider loss of mentoring opportunities a major challenge, according to PwC.
The office is a meeting ground for people at all different levels of an organization. When working remotely, people largely stay in the silos of their teams and departments. Early-career team members, middle managers and leadership all have opportunities to connect in-office that, otherwise, might not naturally emerge.
In-person interactions with leaders and managers clearly impact whether or not people make their way to the office, it’s up to leaders to facilitate that. Create intentional opportunities for people to network with leaders. Make in-person feedback sessions easier to organize. Encourage middle managers to get their teams in office for these events.
TLDR: Mentorship benefits everyone. Offer opportunities for face time with leadership and provide more opportunities for networking to drive people to the office.
4. Find Perks That Work
Perks are an important part of any workplace budget but, when ineffective, they can also be a drain on your bottom line. That’s why it’s critical to evaluate your current incentives and their impact on office attendance. Will people really make the commute in for that free beer tap in the kitchen? Does that ping-pong table make an impact on attendance?
Recent Robin research found that 30% of employees believe their employers don't incentivize the office well. Clearly, there is work to be done. The best place to find new ideas? Your people. Ask them what kind of benefits make them want to commute into the office. Pinpoint what current perks aren’t quite hitting the mark.
Effective incentives will look different based on your company’s unique values. The point here is to think outside of the box of traditional perks. As we consider new ways to drive teams into the office, fresh-takes on incentives are one lever leaders can pull.
New perks don’t always have to mean new investments, either. We know that executive face time and social connections drive attendance. Consider how you can create opportunities for these meetups as part of your incentives program.
TLDR: Invest in perks that make an impact, confirm what works with your teams and consider new ways to support engagement with the office.
5. Empower Teams with the Right Tools
Here’s where you tie all your plans together. In order to provide teams with the information they need to come to the office, you need a tool that removes friction from the experience.
The right technology provides a hassle-free way for employees to check-in to their spaces, reserve desks and see what’s going on for the week. If you want to get people back into the office, you need to equip teams with the right support.
Despite economic uncertainty, 68% of CFOs are increasing investment in digital transformation over the next 12 months. The goal? Creating better workplace experiences for employees. Vibrant offices start and end with enabling your people. Make sure they have all the tools they need to thrive.
TLDR: Remove the barriers between your people and the office with technology that supports the entire workplace experience.
Better Workplace Strategies = Better Business Outcomes
The office is an important resource for organizations and their employees. From social connections to informal innovation, there are some things that remote work just can’t provide. Make it easy for employees to access the value of in-person interactions.
To learn more about how technology can help you get people back in office and back together, download our latest report.