Get Teams Back to Office with a People-First Approach

Sabrina Dorronsoro
Sabrina Dorronsoro
Published on 
11.9.2022

office activity, hybrid work, office experience

How do you get people back into the office without throwing around directives or mandates? It’s a question leaders everywhere have been asking themselves since offices got the all clear to open their doors again. 

It’s a delicate balance. We know that full-time office work is a deterrent for lots of top talent. Yet, we also know that there are considerable benefits to in-office time. 

So how do you empower choice while prioritizing collaboration? The answer starts and ends with employee preferences. There are some things that make people want to head into the office and other things that just come off gimmicky. 

Ping pong tables don’t make the hour commute seem reasonable. Meaningful mentorship from higher-ups? That might just do the trick. 

Let’s break down four tactics for getting your teams back together. 

1. Set the Stage for Connection 

Generally speaking, the backbone of the physical workplace is the people in it. Your job as a workplace leader is to make getting together as easy as possible. When you do, office attendance handles itself. 

Consider this: 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with coworkers, according to research from Microsoft. What’s more, employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%)

If you want to increase office attendance, start by getting the tools, processes and planning in place to enable more peer-to-peer interactions. Consider how to make office activity information readily available so teams never come in just to find an empty office waiting for them. Then, take your efforts a step further, consider how you can better facilitate activities, events or even more interaction during lunch. Set the foundation for teams and watch your workplace come alive.

Robin tip: The key to connection is visibility. In Robin, users can bookmark their team members or favorite coworkers to easily see when they’ll be in office. When employees book a desk using this functionality they are 60% more likely to come into the office. Simplify the process of finding people for your team.

2. Orchestrate Opportunities for Networking

Water-cooler conversations were mentioned a lot in the early days of lockdown, that loss of spontaneous interactions between colleagues in the kitchen, chance encounters as you make your way to the coffee machine. These touchpoints are important pieces of building workplace communities.

Turns out, one of the core drivers for coming into the office is getting face time with executives. In our latest report, Employee motivators: How to get People Back in Office, we found that when asked to choose between free parking or the opportunity for one-on-one time with a manager or executive, 40% said face time was more important to them.

This becomes even more pronounced with younger generations. In fact, 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.

So what does that mean for you? Setting up opportunities for networking is another tool in your belt for engaging people with the office space. 

It’s time to get intentional about social capital. Leaders need to actively work to rebuild the value workers can get from just being around each other, from brainstorms to mentorship to informal learning. It starts at the top. Brainstorm ideas about how your executive team can meet with new employees, consider how managers can facilitate more cross-departmental mentorship and be creative. People want to see and hear from leadership, embrace that.

Robin tip: At our HQ, our CEO regularly hosts “breakfast sandwich Thursdays” - it’s an opportunity for employees to get some time with him and for him to get some time with teams. Trying to find unique ways to connect people who may not otherwise connect creates better working relationships. 

3. Be Strategic with Perks 

We’ve seen all sorts of perks thrown around since the pandemic hit. From traditional methods like catered lunches and commuter stipends to increasingly unique perks like pedicures in office or doggy daycare allowances. 

Perks are an important strategy for retaining and attracting top talent. In fact, millennials consider perks and benefits as one of the top three consideration factors when choosing an employer. Moreover, 85% of people feel that perks are as important or more important to them now than before the pandemic.

But as we’ve discussed, throwing stipends and catered lunches at your teams isn’t enough to drive everyone into the office. In our recent research around Office Motivators, we asked respondents whether knowing a team would be in the office on a particular day made it more likely for them to go in, 64% said it did and only 12% disagreed.

Workplace leaders need to think outside the box when it comes to considering new incentives. What if catered lunch was guaranteed on team-days? Could you find a way to offer well-being courses that connect different departments? How else can you tie traditional benefits to these more intangible needs of people? 

There is room for innovation in how we draw people back to physical spaces. Let your imagination run with new ideas.

Robin tip: We recently introduced a new commuter benefit with two goals: 1) remove barriers to coming into the office 2) increase check-ins with the Robin app. Employees get a fixed amount per day, capped per month, based on their proximity to the office. The way to log those trips? Checking into your desk. It helps us get more accurate office usage data and addresses one of the biggest challenges of in-office work, the commute. 

4. Empower Teams with the Right Tools

You can stack your perks and set up the best collaboration stations your office has ever seen but without the right tools for work-week planning, your strategy will likely fall flat. Having the right platform in place is a key part of enabling a more lively, vibrant workplace. 

In order to make the commute in (and everything that comes with that) people want the actual experience of coming to the office to be simple and streamlined. Part of this is about how easy it is to reserve a space and get around the office. 

Teams want to coordinate their work weeks ahead of time, about half of employees using Robin book their days in office 3 to 4 days in advance. Enabling that as an option can help people better plan their weeks. The added bonus? The right tools help leaders collect data on office activity and employee sentiments which can then drive decisions around workplace strategy.

Robin tip: We conducted research recently that found 73% of managers using a workplace experience platform reported being empowered with appropriate tools to execute their hybrid work strategy. The right tools make all the difference when implementing a new approach to work - for you and your employees. In fact, when using Robin, employees are 2.5x more likely to come into the office

Facilitate Connection, Drive Attendance

We are social creatures. We need to do away with the myth that no one wants to be in office. People want to connect with each other for a variety of different reasons, it’s up to leaders to make getting together as frictionless as possible. 

Interested in learning more about how to drive more office activity? Book a demo today.