Encouraging your team to return to the office?

Ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing of staff is key for successful hybrid working

With more employees heading back to the office for at least part of the week, employers are facing the challenge of creating a welcoming, safe environment that offers people a compelling reason to come in.

While many employees miss the social buzz of the office, research highlights they are also hesitant about returning to busy workspaces. At the same time, employers are considering how best to update the workplace and its work policies to help staff feel engaged and supported wherever they are working from. As staff return to the office, companies need to recognise the importance of health and wellbeing for long-term performance, so here are few ways companies can support their employees.

Ensuring workplace health and safety

Over half of the workforce remain concerned about the risk of continued COVID related infections in the office, clear hygiene measures help reassure employees that workplaces are clean and safe. Reassurance from visible frequent cleaning, one-way signage to help avoid clustering, spacious collaboration points, high-quality air filtration systems and softer screens between desks can all help people feel more secure about sharing workspaces. To avoid crowding at rush hours, some companies are staggering start and end times or giving employees the option of flexible hours.

Supporting employees’ mental health

Creating supportive work environments that help alleviate stress and burnout is more vital than ever, with employees reporting increased pressure when working in the office.

Building an inclusive environment where employees feel safe is essential for today’s workforce. Employees now expect their workplace to be a sympathetic place where they can share their difficulties and concerns. As well as redesigning workspaces for different work styles and offering places for relaxation – such as outdoor spaces or quiet room/reflection rooms, more employers are promoting wellbeing training to respond to mental health needs and providing easy-to-access support programs such as counsel and therapy whether in house or external.

Helping establish healthy routines

While many employees appreciate the flexibility of remote work in achieving a work/life balance, fewer than four in ten feel there is the same support for healthy routines in the office. A recent survey reported one third of employees do not have access to any health and wellbeing amenities however 70 percent of those that do will use them on a weekly basis. Some employers are introducing meeting-free Fridays to better manage weekly workloads while others are focusing their efforts on healthy food services, creating outdoors spaces and fitness spaces to allow employees to re-energise throughout the working day with some even providing activity trackers that can nudge and encourage healthy behaviour. Trusting employees to define their own work patterns and take care of their wellbeing during the working day benefits everyone, people are more engaged and energetic, and businesses gain from higher performance.

Recognising and rewarding employees’ efforts

Acknowledging hard work not only improves job satisfaction, spurs innovation and creates initiative, it equally supports mental wellbeing. What’s key is that employers provide recognition that staff find meaningful. An employee value proposition survey can help employers understand what employees want or need, finding the right thing that will really have influence on their wellbeing, whether that’s the working environment, free healthy snacks or time off to recharge.

Reconnecting employees to the company vision

Remote work has led to many employees feeling isolated and disconnected. Only one third of employees say they have maintained high-quality interactions with colleagues out of the office – with knock-on effects for how they feel about their work.

Employers are boosting staff engagement by investing in workplace culture – from holding social events to creating collaborative, tech-enabled workspaces that support seamless connections with both in-office and remote colleagues. By helping their staff engage again, employers stand to gain from employees who feel more fulfilled and empowered and who understand how their work is intrinsically linked to their organisation’s purpose and this will come back in greater innovation, productivity, and business growth.