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Top 6 Ways to Get Staff Back to the Office Using Office Design

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Encouraging Employees Back to the Office

Are you wanting to get your staff back to the office, but are wary of resistance? Perhaps you’ve already tried, only to be met with lacklustre attendance? If so, you’re not alone. This is a problem faced by many companies currently.

Your office might be part of the problem (and the answer). While the design and experience of your office is not the only factor, it has a major role in attracting your staff back to the office.

For more than 2 years, the return to the office has been a contentious issue with employers and employees alike. After the unexpected success of remote working, employees were keen to keep their new-found autonomy and work-life balance. However, companies have been struggling with uncertain productivity, siloed communication, and disconnected cultures.

As a result, many companies are keen for their people to return to their office. But faced with such reluctance, how do they persuade their staff to return? The answer lies in attracting, not forcing your people back to the office.

In this article, we’ll go through 6 key ways office design can help get your staff back to the office. We’ll cover everything from design features to strategic considerations. By the end, you’ll know how you can improve your office to attract your staff back.

1) Create Breakout Areas

Over the last 3 years, remote working has become the default for many employees. As a result, they won’t accept a return to the office unquestioningly. They need a good reason to do so. 73% of staff say they need a better reason to return to the office than company expectations.

According to research from Microsoft, the answer is simple: social time with colleagues. 84% of employees would be motivated to go into the office if they could socialize with coworkers. Workers are more interested in going to the office for their peers than for their leaders.

To get your staff back to the office, you should lean into this by creating a workspace design that enables and encourages social connections between your people. Not only will this tempt them back to the office, but it will also help improve staff performance. Several studies have shown that when we are doing something with a low intelligence requirement (such as socialising), our creativity is boosted by up to 60%.

To do this, dedicated breakout areas are essential. Making sure these spaces are purely for relaxation will enable you to design them for socialising. Dedicated breakout spaces will also create a clear distinction between work and relaxation areas. This will make it easier to work in other areas of your office.

2) Create Collaboration Areas

Working together with colleagues is another major motivator for staff to return to the office. 87% of employees say the office is important for collaborating with team members. In-person collaboration is also more effective. 32% of hybrid employees say that virtual meetings are less effective than in-person meetings.

Remote meetings may be a more efficient way of transferring information. However, collaborating in person is easier when all the participants are in 1 space. Collaboration also helps build and reinforce team bonds, strengthening the impact of socialisation in the workspace.

To increase collaboration in your office, dedicated collaboration spaces are very helpful. Collaboration spaces are informal spaces where small teams of people can work together away from their desks. They are much less formal and constrained than meeting rooms.

Much like breakout areas, designating spaces for collaboration will enable you to create a space suited to that task. Collaboration spaces are different from breakout spaces in that they are work-focussed. It’s also important that your collaboration area has variety within it, as teamwork comes in many shapes and sizes.

3) Make it Ergonomic

While it’s easy to overlook, ergonomics has a huge impact on the health and performance of your people. 7 in 10 office workers say that their chair has caused them back pain. Insufficient ergonomics can also lead to higher levels of fatigue through inactivity and poor posture.

In the initial stages of home working, many people spent the day on sofas or dining chairs – increasing the risk of various health issues. As time has gone on, many staff have invested in more ergonomic chairs desks and monitor stands. As a result, many home workstations are more ergonomic than some office workstations.

To attract your staff back to the office, you will need to ensure that your workspace is at least as ergonomic as their home offices, if not more so. It’s important to remember that ergonomic means that it suits the user – so adjustability is key.

Making your workspace more ergonomic is relatively easy. It will primarily involve optimising your office furniture. High-quality task chairs are essential, as staff spend 50% or more of their working day using these. Height-adjustable desks are also a good investment. Making sure your office furniture is ergonomic will not only remove a major reason your staff are reluctant to return, but also make them more productive.

4) Provide an On-Brand Experience

Brand identity is a crucial part of your office design. It’s also a key opportunity for you to differentiate your workspace from their homes. Unfortunately, many offices are no more on brand than the homes of their staff. As a result, staff see little purpose in going to the office.

Many people think of office branding as a company logo in the reception and a few walls in the brand colours. However, office branding is much more than that. Office branding involves the entire experience your staff have when in the office. This includes everything from the location, to the furniture, to the taste of the coffee.

To get your staff back to the office with on-brand design, it's crucial that every element of your office reflects your brand. The layout of your office is crucial. A spacious layout with many private offices will create a very different perception to a compact, open-plan space. You should also think about all the finishes throughout your space, not just the walls. This includes the floors and ceilings, as well as the joinery and furniture.

By creating an office that reflects your culture, you will ensure that your office provides a very different experience for your people to their homes. Creating this distinction is crucial, otherwise, staff will not see the value of coming to the office. To learn more about creating an on-brand office, read this article.

5) Provide Great Workspace Technology

Technology is now a crucial enabler of communication and productivity. Technology is also one of the most frustrating elements of remote work for staff, as well as posing a cyber-security risk.

If you are to successfully attract your people back to your office, your workspace technology needs to be better than what your people have at home. In the age of agile working, staff need to be able to move around the office, so wireless internet connection is crucial.

Regardless of whether you plan to operate a fully-in-office or a hybrid working model, remote communication is now an essential part of the office. This means video meeting suites are a key part of every office, equipment with smart screens and/or video bars.

However, it’s absolutely crucial that all your office technology contributes to the performance of your staff, rather than just being technology for technology’s sake. Otherwise, your investment will be wasted, and your people will see little benefit in returning to the office.

6) Make it Suit the Way Staff Work

Above all, to get your staff back to the office, your office must suit the way your staff work. Your people, culture, and processes are all unique. As a result, the exact workspace needs of your people are also unique. While best practices are a useful guide, you should always remain focussed on what is best for your company and people.

Your office needs to be designed to maximise the performance of your people – in the short term as well as the long term. This means design considerations such as wellbeing and engagement are as important as productivity.

Because working styles vary so much from company to company, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this issue. It’s crucial to get both quantitative and qualitative data from your staff via surveys, interviews, and focus groups. This will help you understand what frustrates them about your current office, what will help them to be more productive, and what would motivate them to come into the office.

Getting Your Staff Back to the Office

Getting your staff back to the office has many benefits for both your company and your people. Communication and collaboration are much easier, especially amongst wider teams. As a result, the commitment of your staff to their colleagues and your company will increase. This will improve your staff retention and productivity. By learning about these 6 crucial office design considerations, you are now in a much better position to attract your people back to your office.

To learn more about getting your people back to the office, read about The Top 5 Reasons Staff Don’t Want to Return to the Office, and how you can resolve them. To learn about the process of getting your staff back to the office, read How to Attract Your Staff Back to The Office.



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