Beyond Free Lunches: Inspiring Your Team’s Return to the Office

02 July, 2024 / Bobby Samuels
A diverse group of professionals gathered around a table, sharing a laugh during a meeting.

Getting your team to return to the office after tasting the sweet freedom of working in pajamas is no walk in the park, especially with 28.2% of full-time employees riding the hybrid wave, splitting their time between home and office. We’ve all been there. Trading your comfy home setup for a commute can feel as appealing as a root canal. And for businesses in the Big Apple, this new reality poses an even more unique challenge. How do you lure your team back to those sleek Manhattan high-rises when they’ve gotten used to working in their PJs?

Here’s the thing: offices don’t have to feel depressing. Imagine creating a space where your team wants to hang out. It could be the smell of fresh coffee from that fancy espresso machine you splurged on or the buzz of creative ideas flowing during an impromptu brainstorming session. The trick is to make the office feel less like a mandatory sentence and more like an inviting clubhouse. Give your team the flexibility to choose when they come in, but make those in-office days count. There’s hope with office attendance in NYC rebounding to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Your challenge is finding the sweet spot that keeps your team productive, connected, and excited to swap their home office for the real deal.

Sunshine, Snacks, and Speedy Commutes: Your New Office Life

Getting your team excited about returning to the office can feel like herding cats. But what if you could transform your workplace into a destination they want to be? Start by designing spaces that act as sanctuaries of productivity and choosing locations that simplify their daily commute.

Retreat into Focus: The Power of Private Offices

Remember when “office” meant buzzing fluorescent lights and soul-crushing cubicles? Those are relics of the past. Today, offering employees their own private, well-equipped offices can be a game-changer in luring them back from their cozy home setups. Picture this: a personal retreat where your team can shut the door, crank up their favorite tunes, and dive into deep work without the constant interruptions of home life – no more barking dogs, demanding kids, or unwashed laundry piles.

But these personal workspaces aren’t just about peace and quiet. We’re talking fully loaded offices with all the bells and whistles that improve work life. Ergonomic chairs that don’t turn your back into a pretzel by 3 PM. Standing desks for the fidgeters. Noise-canceling headphones to create a cone of silence. Dual monitors for ultimate productivity. Even a mini-fridge for snacks, because hungry employees are unproductive employees. The freedom to personalize these spaces strengthens your team’s connection to their work, boosting satisfaction and creativity. Add lightning-fast internet and access to slick conference rooms for collaboration, and you’ve created an environment that beats working from the couch.

Seamless Commutes: Location Matters

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the dreaded commute. No one’s jumping for joy at the thought of trading their 30-second shuffle to the home office for a depressing trek across town. But what if getting to work felt like something other than running a daily marathon? Imagine an office strategically placed near major transit hubs, where your team can hop off the subway and stroll into work, coffee in hand. No more sweating through multiple transfers or sitting in gridlock traffic. For the cyclists, picture secure bike storage and showers so they can arrive energized and not resembling a sweaty mess. And for those who must drive, how about partnered parking garages with sweet discounted rates? The goal is to make the journey to work so smooth that your team might wind up looking forward to it.

Beyond the commute, you also want to create a mini-ecosystem around your office that makes being there enjoyable. Picture this: A lively area with various lunch spots within walking distance, so you can forever say goodbye to sad desk salads. Green spaces for outdoor meetings or just catching some fresh air when your brain needs a reboot. And don’t forget those convenient shops for running quick errands during breaks – because who doesn’t love crossing things off their to-do list while on the clock?

The Office Comeback: Mix Perks with Must-Haves

With remote work offering the comfort of home and the freedom of sweatpants, it’s time to get creative and consider what matters most to your team. Let’s explore two game-changing strategies that could transform your workplace from a reluctant destination to a spot-to-be.

Food for Thought: Catered Lunches and Amenity Centers

Remember the days of bland desk lunches and vending machine roulette? Those are officially over. Companies are discovering the way to an employee’s heart (and increased productivity) might be through their stomach. Catered lunches are more than just a free meal – they’re a productivity powerhouse. Studies show businesses save an average of $1,750 per employee annually by providing lunch on-site. Why? Because your team is spending time on things besides avoiding lunchtime traffic or waiting in endless lines. They’re refueling quickly and getting back to what matters.

However, great food is just an appetizer. Imagine entering your office building and finding a state-of-the-art gym, a relaxation lounge, or a game room. These amenity centers may look like fancy extras. Still, the reality is that they’re strategic investments in your team’s well-being and creativity. They give your employees a reason to look forward to coming in and build a sense of community that’s hard to replicate through a video call. Plus, with the right mix of amenities, you’re supporting that ever-elusive work-life balance without anyone ever having to leave the building.

The Ultimate Benefit: On-Site Childcare

Now, let’s address the pressing issue for many working parents – childcare. It’s a major hurdle keeping some of your best talent tethered to their home offices. That’s where on-site daycare becomes a total game-changer. Think about it – over 80% of employees report that caregiving responsibilities negatively impact their productivity. Yet, by offering reliable, convenient childcare right at the workplace, you’re not just solving a logistical nightmare for parents; you’re unlocking their full potential at work. Companies like Fannie Mae, Walgreens, and even Disney have caught on to this trend, recognizing that supporting families means supporting their businesses.

It’s not just about convenience, either. On-site childcare builds a sense of community and trust. Parents can pop in to see their little ones during lunch breaks, easing separation anxiety (for both kids and adults). It shows that you understand and value your employees’ lives outside of work, creating loyalty that’s hard to match with any other perk.

Spark Joy and Energy at the Office

Lastly, companies realize that for employees to return to the office, they need to create an environment where people want to be. Watch what happens when you prioritize building a genuine sense of community and purpose.

Bringing the Fun (and Learning) Back to Work

Think back to your favorite job. Chances are, it wasn’t just the work that made it great – it was the people and the atmosphere. That’s what you’re aiming for now. Start by ramping up those social gatherings. We’re not talking about stuffy holiday parties but regular chances for your team to connect. A Gallup study found that having a work best friend isn’t just nice – it’s linked to better business results, including higher profits and lower turnover. Since COVID hit, these friendships have become even more crucial.

But fun alone won’t cut it. Your employees want to grow, and they want you to help them do it. 68% of workers say they consider employer-provided upskilling when eyeing new jobs. Ditch the boring seminars and create learning opportunities your team will get excited about. It could be bringing in industry experts for workshops or giving everyone a learning stipend. When 54% of employees say more learning time would motivate them to show up, it’s worth the investment.

And remember, team building. While this phrase could make you cringe, tune out your thoughts of trust falls and cheesy icebreakers. Think of activities that build real skills and create a shared purpose. One software company saw turnover drop 30% and satisfaction jump 25% after starting regular team activities. The payoff is real.

Safety First, But Make It Engaging

While we are now in the post-COVID era, and pandemic discussions may seem outdated, it’s still important to prioritize health and safety in the workplace. Your team needs to feel supported beyond simply providing hand sanitizer stations. Consider offering mental health support, ergonomic workstations, and implementing policies demonstrating your concern for their well-being.

Final Words

Returning your team to the office isn’t a walk in the park. With 90% of companies planning return-to-office policies by the end of 2024, you’re not alone in this challenge. The days of rigid 9-to-5 schedules are behind us. Now, it’s about balancing in-office collaboration and the flexibility people have grown to love. While some companies are going overboard with flashy perks, the real goal is more straightforward: make the office a place your team genuinely wants to be.

Think about what truly matters to your employees. Is it quiet spaces for focused work? Areas for spontaneous brainstorming? Flexible hours that accommodate real life? Your office doesn’t need to be a luxury resort but should feel like a second home. By addressing your team’s actual needs – not just what looks good on paper – you’ll naturally create an environment that draws people in. With some thoughtful changes and a dash of creativity, you can turn your office into a place that energizes and inspires, making the return to the office feel less like an obligation and more like an opportunity.


Accessibility Tools