The world of work has changed over the last two years, with many companies embracing working from home and hybrid work models. But most companies still recognize the benefits of having employees in the office, even if it’s just 2-3 days a week. A strong in-office culture allows for spontaneous talks, cross-functional mixing, and collaboration—all of which can help to boost innovation. It also increases employees’ sense of belonging, which is regarded by many as an important metric for success.
In the recent Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey, 79% of respondents said that stimulating a sense of belonging in the workforce was important to their organization’s success in the next 12-18 months, while 93% agreed that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance. The challenge now, therefore, is not just to ensure that your employees come into the office; it’s also to enhance their sense of belonging when they are there.
Whether you want your employees in the office full-time or just on certain days, you can do this by giving them something that they can’t get at home: shared workplace experiences that give them a strong feeling of belonging and community.
A workplace experience is a carefully crafted experience or event that promotes an emotional connection with the workplace and colleagues. These experiences can be big or small—from Friday cake to inter-departmental sports events—and they can be used to nudge employees back into the office, either full-time or on quieter office days, like Monday and Friday.
Here are five tips for creating workplace experiences that will entice your employees back to the office and build a stronger sense of belonging.
#1 Make it fun and business relevant
For the best results, you should create workplace experiences that are fun and link to the company values or business strategy.
Here are two you could try:
- For companies driven by innovation, you could hold a Team Innovation Day. Gather employees in teams to brainstorm business-relevant innovations—and give out prizes for the best ideas.
- Companies with a strong green profile could set-up an Exchange Market. Invite employees to bring in items they no longer use and swap them for things they want.
#2 Feed the mind and body
Lunch is probably the easiest time to arrange an experience, as this is when people naturally take a break, come together, and socialize. Making lunch at home can be inconvenient —so encourage people into the office with fast, convenient, and mouth-watering fresh food experiences that they can enjoy together.
Two ways to feed your foodies:
- Promote diversity and get a good lunch by celebrating and exploring different cultures and cuisines in the office canteen.
- Organize courses in which your canteen shares recipes, meals, and tips to help employees improve their cooking skills. These can be held online, but if they are done in the office, employees can fully appreciate the tasting experience.
#3 Create a culture of convenience
One of the main reasons people like to work from home is convenience—they can complete their workday and do basic household tasks, such as washing clothes and vacuuming during breaks. So why not offer basic services to make it more convenient for them to go to work?
Two examples of office timesavers:
- Make it possible for people to take a family dinner home from the canteen on Mondays.
- If a lot of your staff cycle to work, arrange for a local bike repair specialist to come in once a month to service and fix employees’ bikes.
#4 Increase innovation by breaking silos
One of the biggest drawbacks of working from home is isolation. Employees can feel cut off, with little contact to colleagues from other teams and departments. So arrange events specifically designed to create links between teams and management levels. This will not only create a sense of community but will also inspire innovation.
Two ways to break the silo between teams:
- Arrange a "Meet the Manager" event once a week, where employees can have breakfast, lunch, or coffee with one of the executive level managers.
- Support the onboarding experience by connecting new starters, hosting building tours and arranging team lunches and events.
#5 Create a calendar
For the best results, you should mix regular weekly or monthly events with one-off workplace experiences that create an extra buzz and level of engagement. We recommend creating a calendar to give you and your employees a clear overview of what’s happening on what day. Make sure to carefully plan your calendar to ensure your experiences match your company’s business cycle.
Two tips for better planning:
- Take advantage of things outside of the office, such as local sports events, to arrange one-off experiences.
- Arrange experiences on the ‘less popular’ office days, such as Monday and Friday. To give employees extra motivation to come in, give them something valuable to take away from the event. For example, organize a ‘Boost your LinkedIn Profile’ event where employees get tips on how to improve their profile as well as a new head shot by a professional photographer.