8 Ways to Lure Employees Back to the Office

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has been taking a lot of flak for asking that employees stop working from home and return to the office in an effort to turn around the struggling company. However, we’re pretty certain there are plenty more business owners out there who are grateful for Mayer’s move and the acknowledgement that company culture cannot be built via e-mail.

Of course, if you want to lure your employees off their living room sofas and back into their cubicles, you’ll need a little bait. To help, we came up with eight things you can do to pique their interest:

1. Offer privacy: Modern offices are not known for being very private. With open space offices enjoying their heyday, there aren’t too many places to escape to for an employee who needs a break from the noisy gum popper to their left and the loud phone talker to their right. Telecommuters often tout how much more productive they are at home without co-workers to distract them. While it’s not practical to give each of your employee their own office, you can set aside quiet rooms for those who need to complete more focused tasks and include plenty of seating throughout the office for impromptu meetings for those who need to collaborate.

2. Reduce stress: By nature, offices can be stressful. The long commutes, the huge piles of work, uncomfortable seating, harsh fluorescent lighting and obnoxious co-workers; it’s no wonder many people prefer holing up at home. However, there are ways you can help mitigate some of the stress that comes with office life. Start by inviting nature inside: Bring in live plants and give more employees access to windows so that they can both enjoy views of the great outdoors and be exposed to natural light. Studies have shown that can reduce fatigue and improve productivity. If you want to take it a step above and beyond, think about starting office-wide initiatives to boost employees’ overall health. Purchase ergonomically friendly office furniture, organize lunch-time walking groups or offer free or reduced-cost gym memberships. You might even have a massage therapist visit the office monthly to help employees work out those extra kinks during their morning coffee break.

3. Free refreshments: What’s that old saying? The way to an employee’s heart is through his stomach? Maybe that’s not quite right, but we know it’s rare to find someone who turns down a free cup of coffee or a fresh bagel. Telecommuters often say one benefit to working from home is the money they save on food by not eating out as often. While your office might not have the means to provide free gourmet lunches for all ala Google, you could swing some other small freebies (like an office fruit bowl, instant oatmeal or granola bars to help with those mid-afternoon hunger pangs).

4. Flexible scheduling: We’re pretty sure nobody looks forward to their commute (unless, of course, they enjoy spending hours of their day staring at brake lights while listening to obnoxious morning talk radio). One way to help mitigate rush-hour blues is to allow your employees to work around the busiest times traffic times in your area by either allowing them to work an earlier or later shift, depending on what’s most convenient for both your company and your employee. You could also allow employees to work from home on the worst days for commuting. In addition to reducing driving headaches, flexible scheduling can also help employees balance work and family, which in turn inspires more company loyalty.

5. Casual days: One thing telecommuters always seem to be celebrating is their ability to work in their pajamas. No neck-strangling ties or feet-pinching heels,  just some cozy flannel sleepwear and a pair of soft slippers. Living the dream. While it’s probably not practical or professional to allow employees to show up to work in their lounge wear, you can help maximize their comfort by having dress-down days, especially for employees who don’t meet regularly with clients or have to represent the company out of the office.

6. Free car washes: In addition to the high cost of gas, commuting puts a lot of wear and tear on cars. Show your employees you’re grateful that they make the drive every day by offering free or discounted car washes every month. There are plenty of mobile car-washing services that can visit your office parking lot and detail cars at your employees’ convenience.

7. On-site daycare: Telecommuters love the flexibility working from home offers when it comes to balancing work and family. Entice parents to return to the office by letting them bring their kids to work (or at least close to work) at an on-campus daycare facility. Nearly a third of CNN’s best companies to work for offer a childcare center on site. While this might not be a practical feature for small businesses, larger companies can benefit from reduced tardiness and absenteeism, along with employees who are more productive and satisfied knowing their kids are close by.

8. Be dog-friendly: We admit this might be a little far-fetched, but if you’re a company bent on improving employee morale and introducing a fun office culture, then why not allow four-legged friends to visit the office now and then? A recent study by the Central Michigan University found that dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust between co-workers and by turn more collaboration. Plus, they’ve been linked to improving productivity, lowering absenteeism rates and making employees happier. Bow wow.

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