Since the pandemic, a lot of people have been forced to work from home. They have transformed some portion of their living space to accommodate the new reality. They have purchased new equipment and learned new ways of working — and they like it a lot. Now that so many have had a taste of their dream work situation, it is going to be hard to pull them away from it. People don’t want to go back to the old way of work. That makes it rather awkward for big companies that want nothing more than to get back to the old ways as fast as humanly possible.
This will lead to inevitable clashes between employers and workers. Enterprise-level businesses will have to make significant changes to accommodate the current reality. But they are not alone. This situation also affects small businesses as well. Regardless of the size of your company, you are going to face the same challenges as everyone else when it comes to getting workers to come back into the office.
In some ways, it might be a bigger challenge for small businesses because every worker you lose brings you closer to shutting down entirely. You can’t just bully them into coming back. Even if you could. That would be the wrong approach. Here are some things you can do to make them want to come back to in-person work.
Zoom meetings are the worst, except for all the other ways of meeting. If you are going to restart in-person conferences, you need to offer something better than what people have at home. Start by looking into Live Edge conference tables. You need something better than what you had, and better than what people have at home.
You need a table with plenty of room for everyone to spread out and bring all the items they need. You will need plugs for computers and smartphones. Ergonomically, your table needs to have plenty of clearance for knees and stretching tired legs. Beyond what people are used to, you will want to consider modularity. You might not need a power table for 12. Something smaller will do at first. As you grow, you want furniture that can grow with you by seamlessly accommodating add-ons. Even if you are a small company, you want a larger table than you think you need so that participants have some built-in distancing. Without this affordance, you will have a harder time getting people to show up for meetings.
If all else fails you can always offer financial incentives to get people back into the office. You can offer two tiers of pay: one for remote work and one for in-person work. If your employees are with you mostly because they need the money, they will follow the money all the way back to their old desk.
Apple set April 11 as the deadline for U.S. corporate workers to return to the office. They have recently increased pay and benefits for many of their workers. This might incentivize many to return to the office rather than lose a good job. It is not a one-way street. Neither Apple, Microsoft, nor Amazon can afford to lose top engineers. There are also plenty of jobs at those companies that can’t be done remotely. Follow the lead of other companies and offer reasonable pay incentives to returning employees.
Two of the biggest reasons good employees leave is that they don’t feel heard and they don’t feel appreciated. Those are two of the easiest things you can fix in your company. People will be glad they returned to the office when they feel like they have a voice. When people have a voice in the company, they have a stake in the company. You have to start thinking of your employees as indispensable parts of the whole. If you want to get where you want to go, you have to help them get where they want to go. Be less of a boss and more of a partner and watch your office fill up once again.
It won’t be easy to lure employees back into the office. But you will get the hardest part out of the way when you provide better conferencing tools, incentivize generously, and make your workers feel as important to the company as they really are.