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To get employees back in the office, we must create spaces they love

Despite pressure from businesses, employees are reluctant to give up the benefits of working from home. But as Melissa Banek explains, offering a workplace they love is a strong motivator.

As businesses emerge into the post-pandemic era, it’s becoming clear that work-from-home culture won’t go down without a fight. While 50 percent of employers are demanding their team to return to the office full-time, only 12 percent of employees actually want to do so.

This gap presents leaders with a bigger goal than simply getting people back at their desks. We can tell employees to return to the office, but that doesn’t mean they actually want to be there. As research continues to show the clear link between employee engagement and business profitability, the challenge for organizations is clear: creating an environment that makes your employees want to come is essential for success.

Cultivating an environment your employees love

The key to creating an office environment that your employees truly enjoy is finding what is most important to them. This will vary depending on your team’s specific demographics, interests and priorities, so the trick is getting to know what matters most to your employees and integrating that into your culture.

For example, IMC‘s Sydney office focuses on providing a healthy, social space that reflects our employees’ personal and professional needs. Our team indicated that healthy living and social connection were important to their productivity and overall wellbeing, so we made sure to offer gourmet, healthy meals each day and encourage staff to connect with their colleagues in our dedicated social hub.

Taking the time to understand your employees and meet their needs will allow you to provide that wow factor that makes them feel valued, respected and, above all, excited to come to work each day.

Striking the right balance

Work–life balance has been a major topic of discussion since remote working became the norm, with studies showing that employees who work from home are four times more likely to enjoy improved work–life balance. A big part of this is due to factors such as eliminating commute times and the ability to enjoy greater flexibility when it comes to personal priorities.

What we can learn from this is that employees are happier when their work allows and encourages them to focus on their wellbeing. A culture that respects and values its staff’s priorities – whether that be picking kids up from school, going to personal appointments, or attending special family events – will inevitably foster more productive, engaged and committed employees.

returning to the office

In situations where staff must be in-office full-time, creating a culture where employees feel comfortable asking for flexible arrangements as needed is essential.

For some businesses, implementing a more flexible approach may mean allowing employees a certain number of work-from-home days per week or month. In situations where staff must be in-office full-time, creating a culture where employees feel comfortable asking for flexible arrangements as needed is essential. At the end of the day, your team are humans first and foremost, so encouraging them to develop a work–life balance that works for their needs will make the transition back to in-office working easier for everyone.

Encouraging holistic success

The mentality that an office should strictly be a place for tangible, measurable productivity is a thing of the past. Personal and professional growth go hand in hand, so creating an office environment where your employees have the tools to thrive plays a pivotal role in their success and yours.

A classic example of encouraging personal growth and wellbeing in the workplace is Google’s state-of-the-art office environment. Staff are encouraged to enrich their personal and professional lives with regular workshops, dedicated time to work on passion projects, free on-site gyms and group workout classes.

You don’t need to be a tech giant to help employees enrich their lives, though. Businesses can do this on a smaller scale by encouraging staff to go for a walk during the day, keeping kitchens stocked with free fruit and healthy snacks or facilitating mentoring sessions for employees each month.

IMC invests in the personal and professional wellbeing of employees by including stretch stations, dedicated training classrooms and a game room for when staff want to take a break and have some fun. By investing in your employees’ overall happiness and growth, you inevitably make coming to work a far more rewarding experience.

Creating collaborative environments

As we make way for a more innovative workplace environment, it’s crucial that we adapt our expectations of how employees should do their job. Gone are the days when employees were happy to come to work and sit behind their desks. Now, 75 percent of employees say collaboration is important in the workplace, so making the effort to facilitate and encourage teamwork can be a game-changer for your staff.

By seeking to create a workplace environment that caters to more than just work, we can nurture truly invested, happy and engaged teams.

Creating dedicated spaces for employees to brainstorm, gather feedback and work collaboratively will allow your staff to share their strengths and learn valuable knowledge from one another. This has been shown to not only improve productivity and engagement but can also lower frustration and stress levels. While some employees may prefer working on their own, offering the freedom to choose the best approach for each person’s individual needs will establish a culture of trust and autonomy that allows your team to thrive.

As we shift back to in-office work, there is more pressure than ever for businesses to meet the needs of their employees. By seeking to create a workplace environment that caters to more than just work, we can nurture truly invested, happy and engaged teams.

Melissa Banek is the Head of HR at IMC Trading, with a focus on helping executives, senior leaders and rising stars. She has been with the business for more than a decade with roles spanning both the United States and Australia. A Registered Psychologist by trade, Banek has more than 20 years of experience working in HR roles globally. A certified performance coach, psychologist and HR executive, she is passionate about helping people have a career and life they love.

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