As pandemic restrictions fade, more and more businesses are trying to get their employees back to the office, with or without success. Because in reality, there is no right way to get your employees back: some organizations like Dropbox chose to view this ‘crisis’ as an opportunity to transform their work model - they chose to opt for a virtual-first approach, which favors virtual interactions and remote work, and minimizes work in a common headquarters. For others, such as Microsoft or Facebook, the path to returning to the office has been more difficult and has resulted in some changes in the culture, especially relating to the social aspect of work.
But overall, most of the companies which used to work in-person have switched for a Hybrid model, allowing their employees to spend more time working remotely, and using their workspaces as a way to create social moments and strengthen cohesion.
Among all these employees, some are going to the office, others are still resisting and only work remotely, and some have resigned to go full-remote.
What is clear though, is that there are some better and worse ways of approaching the challenge of rolling out a Workplace strategy. Because all of our relationships to work are different - same goes for our working style preferences - when people aren’t asked or given a choice, they often feel that their needs were overlooked or simply don’t matter. The failure to “get people back to the office” is also the result of a disconnection between the executives and employees about the workplace and their relationship to work, which is playing out in some of these unsuccessful return-to-office (RTO) attempts. And if there’s no people, there is no business, so it’s safe to say, many are not sold on a mandate if they’re working well from their new comfortable homes.
The motivations of these companies to bring their employees back to the office are often the same: productivity, employee monitoring, cohesion… But above all, the profitability of the offices is a real problem. Because most of them have offices that can accommodate several hundred people, and when there are no employees utilizing space, that real estate becomes a stale asset.
Many feel that a choice must therefore be made: to encourage remote work and reduce rental expenses, or make offices profitable by having employees return to them.
But can companies successfully set up a workplace strategy that meets the needs of both the company and its employees?
Yes, they can. And often, the answers are in the data. Whether it's office or people analytics, data is still the best way to measure the impact of your decisions.
And at Café, we strongly encourage people to make data-driven decisions when it comes to optimizing space and office management for people's connectivity.
If you’re currently defining or refining your workplace or return to office strategy, it’s important to take an experimental approach and analyze decisions. Here are the Top 3 workplace analytics you need to improve your RTO strategies.
Let’s start at the beginning by first looking at the trends, when working in person or remotely.
Before even measuring the occupancy rate of the offices by employees who go there, it is very important to pay attention to employee habits at a company scale when it comes to working in person or remotely.
In order to be able to optimize the space used in each office, we first have to ensure that employees go there: and it is by using company-wide analytics that you can understand the global trend, and thus implement actions to encourage employees go to the office. Then in a second stage, when the proportion of employees going to the office is sufficiently high, you can focus on optimizing each space individually.
To do so, you’ll first need to measure the amount of days spent in remote and from an office - whatever its location, before looking at the details of the office occupancy rate.
These first analyses are the basis for measuring the effects and the success in returning to the office. Once you have this data as a reference, you can test new office tactics to see how they affect your attendance rates week after week, and month after month.
This first data point must be analyzed as the top of the funnel involves working trends - for example, office VS remote, then descending to office A versus office B attendance, to finally being able to track the daily occupancy for each office, with accuracy and relevance.
Some companies even take in consideration Team analytics to better understand how people are interacting with the company workplace strategy and with the rest of the employees. And at Café, we clearly encourage it too, having developed a unique approach to help deciders to follow people, office and team trends.
With this foundational information, you can better understand how your employees are actually leveraging the workspaces you’re providing and ensure you’re offering the right types of spaces. For example, you may find that too many employees are taking zoom meetings at the office on Mondays, when there’s many in person team meetings going on. You might suggest that some teams either come to the office on less busy days, or make the whole meeting remote if only some can join in person. By paying attention to trends, you can track, compare, and adapt your global workplace strategy at different levels.
The second degree of analytics to improve your strategy is office attendance. You can refine your workplace strategies and take them to the next level by experimenting with different tactics. An experimental approach works best when there is a controlled group and a variable group. If your company has multiple offices, you can try different tactics simultaneously. Your results will then show the performance of various offices, which will help you make decisions based on recent data. To do so, you must be able to track the attendance for every single office, and compare those results on a weekly or monthly basis.
Here are the two mains scenarios you may encounter in your strategy:
Let’s say you have three offices. The office attendance rate has been stable at 60% for the last two months in each location. Your company would like to increase it to 65%. You and your team have many ideas to try, such as organizing weekly social hours and in-person professional development sessions. To see which approach moves the needle the most, your team tests different tactics in different locations. They organize weekly social hours in an office. They have in-person professional development sessions in the second office. The third office is the control.
After testing each idea for a month, your team gets some interesting insights. The office with weekly social hours saw its attendance rates increase to 75%, but only for the first and third weeks. This could mean that weekly social hours were too frequent for employees. The second office with weekly in-person professional development sessions saw their attendance rates increase by 5% week over week. In the fourth week, participation was 80%. This shows that face-to-face professional development sessions have been more effective than weekly social hours, over time.
Now that your team has variable location data on what works to attract employees to the office, your company decides to roll it out to all locations: both social hours and in-person professional development sessions. Instead of welcoming them every week, your team decides to spread them out every two weeks, keeping them unique and exciting for employees. As a result, your company is seeing a steady increase in weekly attendance at 75% across all locations, exceeding its original target of 65%.
Don’t have multiple offices? Or locations too different to compare? You can always test the most successful tactics by deploying them to specific floors, departments or days of the week.
And here are some ideas:
Finally, one of the biggest challenges organizations face when it comes to space is that they have too much workspace and not enough people to fill it. In short, they lose a lot of money by renting unused space, while also missing out on the spirit of cohesion and camaraderie because employees don’t spend time together.
When employees are in a large office, they may feel empty and sparse. In a small space, they might feel crowded and distracted. People don’t feel connected to their colleagues, leading them to not see the value of being there. That’s why it’s so important to find the right spaces that fit the needs and reasons why people want to spend time in person together.
Optimizing your space can be a good way to improve the workplace for those who work on-site. For example, if your employees are spread across several floors of your office, reducing the number of floors could help people communicate by being physically closer to each other.
To test this, your team may close some floors so that employees can only work on the remaining open floors. But again, to do so, you have to keep a close eye on your office analytics, and in this particular case, on occupancy rate - on a weekly or monthly basis.
This data allows you to understand how your space is used day after day, and decide if people should meet, if the size of the office is the problem, if the attendance of the employees should be more evenly split across the week…
The main purpose of tracking these analytics is to optimize the on-site employee experience. Hopefully, bringing changes to your workspace - like meeting people’s space needs, creating events and increasing social interactions - can lead to a steady attendance rate, that also creates a sense of belonging for your employees and improves the overall work experience.
As we said earlier, a successful workplace policy is not measured only on the attendance rate, or the office fill rate. With the shift to hybrid work and the excitement around the future of work, mindsets are changing and the well-being of employees is becoming increasingly taken into account by companies every day - and especially the link between socializing at work and well-being.
Indeed, many studies have shown in recent years that a lack of social ties, connections, within a workspace, constitutes a danger to the health of the company, especially when it adopts a hybrid or remote-first. Gallup data also indicates that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including profitability, safety, inventory control and retention.
At Café, we truly believe the future of work is hybrid.
We designed the ultimate social hub for hybrid teams, to enable employees to shape their hybrid work styles with flexibility, transparency, and interest-based connections at the forefront of each social interaction.
We help hybrid and remote first companies increase workplace connectivity and build efficient, flexible and thriving cultures.
Boost office connectivity with social moments and create strong connections across teams from your social hub in Café.