July 15, 2021

Return To Work Strategies: How To Communicate To Your Staff It’s Time To Come Back To The Office


The question for every CEO is: what are the best return-to-work strategies to increase team morale about working in the office again? The global shift to remote work allowed employees to develop new habits and routines at home. While some prefer the in-office experience, new research shows less than 32% of workers are highly likely to return when their offices open. It’s important to promote not only a healthy CDC compliant work environment, but also a space that supports communication, understanding, and care for your employees.

The “right” time to bring staff back into the office is different for every business. When you’re ready to have that conversation with your team, make sure you’re opening the line of communication. Utilizing tips from other small to mid-size companies and promoting the positives of working in office are great places to start.

Prioritize Open Communication

Workers will have valid hesitancies about return to work strategies. Deloitte’s consumer industry safety and cleanliness survey reported that to be more comfortable in a work environment, workers typically desire frequent and relevant communication, specifically around the precautions taken for their health. Asking the right questions about remote flexibility, childcare, and health risks will open the line of communication between CEO and employee. Building these relationships is key to boosting comfortability and morale in returning to the office.

While some things are out of a business’s control, a hybrid-work model is never out of the question. This includes socially-distanced desks, sanitizing stations, and secluded work spaces. This model also allows the employee and manager to make a joint decision on hours spent in office vs remote. This model works especially well for parents who discovered they had more flexibility in their childcare within the last year, along with others who simply enjoyed eating lunch at home, going for a midday walk, and spending more time with loved ones. 

If the hybrid-work model is feasible for your company’s return to work strategy, talk with each employee to figure out how they can be most productive, even if the solution is temporary. Your employees are trusting you to make the right decisions in protecting everyone’s mental and physical health. As they return to the office, all of these decisions start in conversation with your team.

Learn from Small and Mid-Size Companies

There’s no global return to work strategy after a pandemic, and every business is learning as they go. We can all take something from small and mid-size companies that are jumping headfirst into different routines. 

Morgan Stanley (MS) chief James Gorman boldly stated, “If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office.” He later mentioned that blanket statements can do more harm than good. MS will still be flexible with splitting time between at home and in office. When you’re communicating with your team on a return to work strategy, try to stay away from hard deadlines. Some parents still need to be at home with kids and others may not be ready to risk their health. Though cities like Philadelphia lifted its “safer at home” restrictions in June, not everyone is up to speed.

Companies like Updata Partners with 55 employees are excited to bring everyone back soon, showcasing the importance of in-person collaboration and how remote work halted productivity. Others like Roundtrip, with 41 employees, have seen greater amounts of success with remote work. They have no plans on bringing the team back into the office anytime soon. Convenience-store chain Sheetz encouraged staff to stay home when sick and offered an additional $3.00/hr for those working the front lines. 

So what does this mean for your company’s return to work strategy? Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine how your team works best. Consider what location they work best from, and how in-office collaboration in some capacity can only improve the team dynamic.

Promote the Benefits of In-Office Work

Businesses benefit from staff working in the office full-time, or some form of hybrid-work model.  As mentioned, some employees will be hesitant about the company’s return to work strategy, so communicate the benefits clearly. Simply put, working in the office eliminates at-home distractions. It also streamlines team collaboration and innovation on new ideas, encourages mentorship, and strengthens the connection not only between co-workers, but also to the company’s culture and mission. 

You may have to incentivize your team with perks to get them back into the office. Outdoor seating, early Fridays, snacks, happy hours, or additional pay are options to consider. If enough of your staff refuses to return, you may need to consider downsizing or renovating the current office space.

Communicating with your staff on return to work strategies will require you to bring up the tough questions—but employees will put their trust in you when you put their mental health first. You can achieve this with focus on listening to what they need. Lastly, adjust your strategy to ensure your staff feels comfortable in returning to the office.