office space

Return to office action plan: Get your team back

When we think about hybrid working, we tend to focus on employees outside of the office. But for every home office set-up you help facilitate for team members, you can’t forget to invest in an effective, enjoyable hybrid working experience for the days they spend on-site.

In a 2022 study of HR leaders, 90% said that their business was embracing the hybrid workplace and only 4% were requiring all employees to come back to the office full-time. This is a good strategy — after all, we know how much employees appreciate the benefits of remote working.

But we also know that working in-office is vitally important for creativity, collaboration, and productivity. There’s still plenty of value in working in person with colleagues, bouncing ideas off one another in real time, and feeding off the energy of the office.

That’s why finding the right balance between letting people work flexibly and bringing people back into the office is so important.

If your organization is trying to find its own balance, you’ll need to take a look at how to make your return to office (RTO) strategy a success for the hybrid workers of today.

Return to office action plan: 5 ways to get your team back to the office regularly

  1. Get to know your teams as the hybrid workers they are

There’s a lot to consider when you start managing a hybrid team.

Managers can easily make mistakes if they use the same leadership approaches for hybrid teams as they did when everyone was in the office. And yet, any manager can thrive with a hybrid team — they just need the right attitude, technology, or tools.

In terms of attitude, managers need to go back to square one in learning employees’ preferences. That includes how they prefer to work (the balance of on-site vs at-home), the technologies they know well and gel with, their strengths, their weaknesses, and most importantly, their feelings about the company.

Getting to (re)know your people on this deep a level can help to guide changes to the business in a way that benefits your employees. This might include ways to improve communication within hybrid teams and suggestions to help ease employees back into the office.

Smartway2 tip > Try creating worker personas to better understand and map your employees’ personalities and preferences. These personas create helpful generalizations that will help you design an RTO plan that keeps everyone engaged.

  1. Find your ideal hybrid work model

One of the most exciting parts of the hybrid revolution is that we haven’t adopted a standardized version of what hybrid work looks like. This means we can experiment with different configurations and find a model that works well for each business. You could even have variations between teams, so long as it’s proven to be effective.

There are so many office hybrid work models to consider. Some businesses choose to bring their workers in for set days per week, others have one week per month. Some even leave it to the employee’s discretion as long as an agreed-upon ratio is maintained.

Again, it really is down to your employees to figure out which hybrid method is the best fit for them. Remember, the whole reason we’re switching to hybrid is to make sure our employees have the best possible experience.

Smartway2 tip > Survey employees to gain a consensus on how many days they are looking to come back to the office each week. Then, use your hybrid workplace analytics software to monitor how realistic that assumption was. You want to utilize your space in a way that meets employee behavior and avoids wasted spend.

  1. Reconfigure your spaces

Would you willingly trade home comforts for a 40-minute commute and an isolated cubicle? Probably not, so you can’t expect employees to either — if being back in the office is less attractive than being at home, you won’t get far with your RTO efforts.

Instead, look for the opportunities that hybrid workplaces present. Reconfigure the office, put collaboration at the core, and challenge the idea of what a ‘day in the office’ should be.

More and more businesses are applying a hospitality mindset to facilities management, thinking of employees as customers you’re trying to impress and retain. Identify areas where their experience can be improved, strengthen their connection to the business, and ensure they feel valued throughout their time with the company. By doing so, businesses can improve talent acquisition and retention while maintaining a high level of productivity.

Designing your office with activity-based working (ABW) in mind is another great way to improve your office facilities. This involves designing and designating specific areas of the office to suit a particular workflow. So, rather than having a giant open-plan office, you could create neighborhoods to suit different types of working such as:

  • Quiet areas to improve concentration
  • Group meeting spaces
  • Collaboration areas
  • Call rooms
  • Different departments
  • Different teams

This isn’t about splitting up employees, though. The aim is to give employees the space they need to get the job done effectively.

Smartway2 tip > You should also ensure that the new spaces you make are flexible enough to adapt to different circumstances. The way we work is changing at a rapid pace, so who knows what we will need in a couple of years!

  1. Use data to drive your choices

We touched on employee surveys and space utilization analytics above, but it’s worth specifically calling worth just how essential data is for your return to office plan.

Chances are, hybrid working is a very new concept for your business, and you’ll still be in the ‘beta testing’ mode trying to find out what works. Use all of the data collection methods at your disposal to get continuous feedback on the success of your back to the office approach. Combine qualitative (i.e. surveys) and quantitative insights to get the full picture.

Smartway2 tip > Quantitative analytics from desk and room booking software (such as Smartway2) will let you know how people are responding to any changes within the office. You can see what is working and what isn’t, helping guide future changes.

  1. Let technology help you bring people back

Technology is the golden thread that ties your return to office plan together. Much like technology is key to successfully integrating remote workers into your teams, technology can help you bring those remote workers back into the office again.

Ideally, we’re talking about a flexible, cloud-based platform that can offer powerful analytics, simple room and desk booking, visitor management, and a solid range of integrations to fit into your existing tech stack.

Of course, the only platform to offer all of that (and more) is Smartway2! So get in touch with us today to see how we can help make hybrid work for you.

And, don’t forget to download our Return To Office playbook for a complete guide to getting your return to office right the first time.


Hannah Cresswell

Last updated October 7, 2022