Smartway2 5 Reasons Employees Hate Coming Into The Office And How To Fix Them
5 min read

5 Reasons Employees Hate Coming into the Office and How to Fix Them

If you’re a workplace leader looking to boost the number of people coming into the office, you have one shot to get it right.

If employees take the time to come in and don’t have a good workplace experience, not only will they never come back, but they’ll tell their colleagues never to come in either. Like a Google restaurant review, it’s the negative that stands out most and creates the biggest ripples that change people’s behaviour.

But if employees have an enjoyable workplace experience in the office consistently, Return-to-Office (RTO) Velocity will start to trend upwards – which is music to HR, Real Estate and even the CFO’s ears (or eyes in this scenario).

Remember a few years ago when the death of brick and mortar retail was constantly forecasted as just around the corner? Well, that didn’t happen, because retailers rethought what physical stores needed to offer consumers. It’s time for the workplace to do the same.

Coming into the office should be a give and take now that it hasn’t been the status quo for three years.

Employees give their time for commuting and the convenience of arranging their day around picking up the kids or working out. In return, they expect their workplace experience to provide better collaboration, better ideas,  better tools and resources, and definitely better coffee.

If the workplace experience the office provides isn’t giving employees more than they’ve given up, they’re going to hate coming in.

But for organizations with hundreds and thousands of employees, each of whom could want completely different things from the office, figuring out what not to do when trying to accelerate RTO Velocity can seem complex and completely overwhelming.

Even so, there are some universal complaints employees have about coming back into the office. And chances are, you’ve experienced them too.

Here are 5 reasons employees hate coming into the office and the steps you can take to fix them.

1. The office is too crowded or too empty

When the office is packed to the brim with people jostling for desk space, it makes you wish you’d never bothered to sacrifice your peaceful living room desk for the day. It also damages productivity for employees who work best in quiet spaces. No one should have to invest in noise cancelling headphones because of poor workplace management.

On the flip side, when you discover you’re the only one in for the entire morning after an hour-long commute, coming into the office to be around colleagues automatically becomes a huge waste of time. Sometimes it can feel downright eerie and unsettling.

Both of these scenarios have this in common, however – they’re a clear signal to employees that their workplace experience isn’t worth investing in. Both are a surefire way to prevent people from ever coming back in and telling their colleagues about it.

How to fix it: Monitor space utilization to understand how people are using the office, especially utilization peaks and troughs. If rates are nearing capacity or are barely there, manage occupancy through making more space available to employees, closing off underused areas or changing policy.

Read more: 5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2023

2. It’s impossible to find a desk

“But are there enough desks for everyone?” tends to be one of the first questions that pop up after a new hybrid work mandate. Particularly if the office was downsized or restructured during the pandemic, employees want to be certain they’ll have a desk with any equipment they need, regardless of whether they come in at 8:30 or 9:30.

Not being able to find a desk near your team, or not finding a desk with the two monitors you need to get things done, damages productivity for the day. The office needs to give employees a better work environment than what they’d have at home to get people coming back in.

How to fix it: Use a desk booking system that makes it easy for employees to use the office again. The right desk booking system integrates with the systems everyone is already using and helps them connect with their colleagues.

Read more: How to Choose Desk Booking Software for the Hybrid Workplace

3. It’s impossible to find a meeting room

Going into the office because the CEO says it’s necessary for collaboration and then not being able to find a meeting room to actually collaborate does not instil confidence or trust in your organization.

Holding onto a meeting room you need for a 3 PM client call by putting a post-it note on the door and giving anyone who comes close the evil eye isn’t a sustainable or scalable way to boost collaboration in the workplace.

How to fix it: Use a meeting room booking system to make sure employees can book the meeting space, resources and equipment they need to collaborate.

How to choose a meeting room booking system

How to choose a meeting room booking system

Find out how to choose a meeting room booking system that turns meetings from hassle to HUZZAH!

4. Office design hasn’t changed since 2020

The same old open-plan seating and three giant meeting rooms that everyone remembers fighting almost to death for don’t make an inspiring workplace. The way people work has changed, what they need from the workplace to do their best work has changed, and if office design hasn’t evolved alongside those changing needs, employees are going to hate coming in.

How to fix it: Understand what people want out of the office. This is far more granular than determining whether people need more meeting rooms or hot desks. Someone could spend their entire day in meetings but need complete silence in a soundproof phone booth after the last meeting finishes to wrap everything up. The best ways to understand what functionalities employees want are:

  • Asking them directly through employee workplace surveys, and
  • Understanding which spaces are the most popular through measuring space utilization.

5. Employees are being forced back in

Back to the office mandates have been making the news for a while now, along with employees digging in their heels and polishing their CVs with the hope of landing a new role that provides the flexibility they’re used to.

When done for the wrong reasons are articulated in the wrong way, a back to the office mandate obliterates the autonomy employees need to feel empowered and engaged at work. That breeds resent and stalls any progress with RTO velocity. What’s more, if an employee comes back into the office but finds out that colleagues – and even worse, managers – aren’t listening to the mandate, you can bet they’ll stop coming in too.

How to fix it: Create a hybrid workplace strategy that clearly articulates the role of the physical workplace in your company culture and workplace experience. A hybrid workplace strategy should also align different employee groups with the hybrid workplace schedule that’s right for them, which also goes a long way to manage occupancy and avoid packed offices or ghost towns from occurring.

Smartway2 Hybrid Workplace Strategy Cover Image
Workplace strategy
10 min read

How to Create a Hybrid Workplace Strategy

Find out how the right strategy can keep leadership and employees happy and productive with hybrid work.

Smartway2 makes coming into the office worth it

With Smartway2’s intelligent scheduling software, it’s easy to book the desks, meeting rooms, resources and services employees need to have a productive, collaborative day in the office that keeps them coming back.


Jackie Towers

Last updated February 16, 2023