These are the return to office benefits that really help in employee retention in the long run

With all the talk of returning to the office these days, we see companies offering perks to lure people back… from private concertsuntil higher compensation for working from headquarters, to happy hours with CEOs (which can cause more proximity bias than employee engagement). These extrinsic motivators seem to work to get people back into the office, at least in the short term. Facts conducted by Future Forum shows that more than a third of knowledge workers now work in the office five days a week, more than at any time since the summer of 2020.

But these kinds of benefits don’t help with long-term retention — in fact, they may do more harm than good. Future Forum data shows that workers are struggling with the ‘return to normal’ mandates from above. In the past three months, employee experience scores of knowledge workers who have returned to the office full-time have fallen sharply, including a sharp decline in work-life balance, overall satisfaction with their work environment, and work-related stress. As it turns out, cupcake socials in the office don’t make up for the hours-long commute (and a lower quality of life).

This data taps into a deeper stream that reshapes what people want from their work lives. The past two years have led many to realize that more goal-oriented work is possible. Employees want their performance to be judged by their impact, not the speed with which they respond to a message or their office attendance. They want more flexibility in how they spend their time so they can see more of their family, take up a new hobby, or take better care of themselves. And they want leaders who motivate and inspire confidence by communicating transparently.

In this environment, fixating on the right combination of carrots and sticks to get employees back into the office is completely the wrong approach. Instead of putting energy into “getting people back,” leaders themselves should step back and refocus on how to provide a more fulfilling work experience. They can start by better defining the purpose behind their policies, giving employees more autonomy, and investing in mastering their frontline leaders.

Define the purpose behind the policy.

Today’s leaders have a huge opportunity to renovate the way their organizations operate, investments that will enable them to remain relevant and competitive for years to come. Because these policies will fundamentally shape both the work life and corporate culture of employees, leaders must be very mindful in articulating the purpose and principles behind them, and how they relate to the core beliefs and values ​​of their organization.

Give employees a deeper explanation – for example, by providing flexibility, all employees are given equal opportunities regardless of location – and whatever you decide to do, collect feedback: across teams, functions, demographics and locations. Feeling heard is an easier way to find a target than a seemingly random mandate from above.

Give employees more autonomy.

Autonomy is another important part of a more fulfilling work life. So much of the future of work conversations revolved around where people work that it has obscured the broader trend: people want to be confident that they make their own choices, especially regarding when they work. They want the freedom to work within or outside the confines of the 9-to-5, as long as the work gets done. They want to take that walk in the middle of the day or spend time with their kids. Maybe they work better at night, or early in the morning. Yet this level of autonomy has remained out of reach for most people; two-thirds of the knowledge workers indicate that they are little or not able to adjust their working hours (besides the incidental agreement).

We have found that ‘framework flexibility’ or ‘guided autonomy’ is an effective way for organizations to balance the need for team structure and individuals’ desire for autonomy. This means putting basic protections in place around what work looks like in your organization and then letting employees choose what works best for them within those broad parameters. For example, “core team work hours” groups ask all team members to be available for meetings and real-time collaboration for a few hours a day, but otherwise let individuals decide when they want to work.

Invest in mastering frontline leaders.

To build a more fulfilling work life, leaders also need to think about how to better support employees on the path to mastery and growth. The data shows that middle managers in particular have struggled with their jobs over the past two and a half years. Many have functional expertise but are chronically under-educated when it comes to leading with empathy and transparency; they are not equipped to run distributed teams, let alone translate unpopular top-down mandates with little context. And that sentiment seeps through to their teams, fueling attrition: Most people leave managers, not jobs.

Successful organizations will invest in upgrading their frontline leaders from gatekeepers to caretakers – managers trained to guide employees to thrive professionally in day-to-day work and career advancement. This includes developing the skills of leaders by providing mutual feedback. Managers must learn to take and give feedback while advocating for their employees and representing their needs and wants. The continued response to employers’ rigid ‘return to office’ policies shows how underdeveloped our current feedback muscles are – the data shows that two-thirds of leaders fail to consider employees’ inputs and preferences when planning the future of their workforce. work.

Today’s Great Resignation talks often calculate the impact of employee departures in terms of lost productivity or replacement costs. While those stats are important for the day-to-day costs of running businesses, there’s an even stronger figure about unfulfilled capital: The average worker will work 90,000 hours in our lifetime, and for too many of us, our current working conditions create a fear, resentment and a lack of motivation. The cumulative downstream effects of this malaise — for both our personal and social well-being — are sobering to imagine.

So as employees reevaluate the role of work in their lives, it may also be time to reevaluate the role of perks: When employees have purpose, autonomy, and mastery, the nature of work may become a perk in its own right.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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