The latest outbreak in Melbourne aside, the call is getting louder for workers to return to the office on a more regular basis, especially in the CBD areas. It is true that small, CBD businesses rely on passing office trade for their revenue. High rents, wages and of course the cost of stock has seen many businesses pull down the shutters for good. Similarly, the energy of a city is reflected in the buzz of entertainment precincts and hospitality venues, all of which need passing foot-traffic to thrive.
The issue with workers returning to the office in large numbers is complex. For some, the opportunity to work remotely has opened-up opportunities for genuine work/life balance, something that has been high on the wishes of candidates for years. The flexibility to drop and collect children from school; time saved from commuting to the CBD offices and the savings in public transport fares or fuel costs mounts up.
How then can employers attract their staff back into the office? A one solution fits all approach clearly does not work. Instead, a combination of incentives may be required. These could include the flexibility to work from home for 1-2 days per week and changes to start and finish times to fit in with school commitments and potential for off peak travel. Breakout work areas which allow collaborative work teams combined with less screen time may also help. Alternatively, a ‘’carrot” in the form of financial incentives may be more effective than the “stick” approach. This could direct in the form of a higher salary or indirect by offering additional leave days for staff working full-time in the office.
2020 was horrid; perhaps 2021 can be a landmark year for developing creative and mutually acceptable work options. As an employer, what have you considered to encourage your staff to return the office and as an employee what incentives would work for you?