Rethinking the return to office – a guide for small businesses

Two blue conference chairs at a trendy tech company office

Small business owners all over are planning to return to the office, but things won’t be the same as before

Is remote working just not cutting it for you? Lots of companies are gearing up to return to the office as restrictions ease, but views on this are divided.

Planning to return to the office is about more than signing a lease. There are lots of barriers that small business owners have to consider before they make the switch.

A surefire way to alienate your employees is to impose an unnecessary burden on their workload like a commute. So before you announce to your team that the office will be their new sanctuary, it’s best to get your ducks in a row and understand just why the move is so important.

There are lots of logistical things to consider too, like safety measures, training and benefits.

Why are companies returning to the office?

There are lots of reasons why companies like yours might want to return to the office. But before we talk about things like productivity let’s get our facts straight.

Research has shown time and time again that remote workers are more productive than office workers. And a massive 98% of people would like the option to work from home for the rest of their careers.

So if you want to bring people back to the office, you’ll need a great reason.

This should be easy as the issues that come with remote work are substantial. Company culture, communication and overworking are valid concerns that most managers have, and they can certainly be cited as reasons to return to the office. But if they’re just concerns and not substantial issues you might find some backlash.

The logical first thing to do when considering returning to the office is to ask your employees what they think. This will affect their day-to-day lives massively so expect some strong opinions.

Ultimately, the decision of where your employees work is down to you and the contract they signed.

Conference space with large desk and several red chairs looking out on cityscape.

How to handle returning to the office

Before you announce your return there are some things to consider.

1 – Flexibility

Undoubtedly, working from the office will not suit everyone. Lots of us have gotten used to working in slippers and pyjama bottoms!

Offering some flexibility or even a hybrid working policy can be a great way to get the best of both worlds and make everyone happy.

And thanks to new tech, facilitating flexible work shouldn’t be too difficult. There is all kinds of technology that can be used to help teams communicate and coordinate, even if half of them are in the office and half are at home.

2 – Benefits

Can you offer some perks that make returning to the office a little easier? When we can do our jobs just as well from the comfort of our own homes, there needs to be some incentive to return to the office.

Office dogs, free food and more socials are great low-cost perks that can do wonders for your office. And who can say no to free puppy petting?

3 – Safety

Even though lots of us are vaccinated, there are still health and safety issues to consider in the wake of Covid-19. And when your team haven’t seen each other in person for weeks or even months, you can expect hugs and handshakes across the board.

This can be stressful for your employees, especially those that are high-risk or those that have high-risk family members!

So prepare to put some rules in place, answer questions and offer assurances.

Does your office have a social distancing policy? Do your employees need to wear masks when they aren’t at their desks? Does your office have good airflow?

Don’t forget to stock up on hand sanitiser, masks and cleaning supplies for them too!

Office dog at a busy desk with multiple screens.

4 – Re-training

Your employees know how to do their jobs, but do they know how to work side by side with others?

Office etiquette can feel like second nature to anyone that’s ever worked a 9-5 before 2020, but for your new junior hires things can be confusing.

It goes beyond knowing to offer everyone else a cuppa on your way to make your own, it’s about:

  • Access, keycards and locking up
  • New technology like printers and cameras
  • Volume control and being conscious of others
  • Limiting distractions and pestering others
  • Cleaning up after yourself

To help make the transition as painless as possible for your entire team, it might be best for your senior members to go over the office basics on the first day back.

5 – Location

Whether you’ve hired hundreds of employees in the last 12 months or absolutely none, returning to the office will have a big effect.

If you want to have every one of your employees come together each day in a big city office, you’re limiting your potential – that’s just a fact. We all know that it’s expensive to live in a big city, but it can be just as expensive to live nearby and commute every day.

So undoubtedly, the only people able to come into the office will be well-off. They might live with a partner, parents or have their costs subsidised in some way.

Remote working opens you up to applications from all over the world so that you can truly find the best candidate out there. Strict locations are a major roadblock for hiring and can end up being a thorn in your side.

So if you’re conscious of your diversity and hiring quickly, it might be best to offer remote working options.

And you never know, one of your employees could have moved too far to make a daily commute!

6 – Hiring

If your return to the office is imminent, you might find it hard to hire again for another reason.

Big companies like Apple and Microsoft have delayed their return to the office, but plenty more have discarded it altogether. Facebook, Indeed and many more companies have updated their policies to allow permanent remote working.

Remote working is an attractive benefit for most job hunters and we all know that talent pools are limited. Lots of your ideal applicants will be exclusively looking for remote opportunities, so you might find yourself losing the war for talent to your remote competitors.

We know that employing juniors can seem like a lot of hard work, but we believe that small businesses need them to thrive. If you’re looking to hire before your return to the office, check out our candidates on our hiring platform!

About post author

Hi, I'm Daisy. I'm using my passion for writing to work with DigitalGrads on their content and social media campaigns.
Posted in Tech Company Culture