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Back to Work at the Office

How to Get Employees to Go Back to Work at the Office

Initially, it was a pure culture shock; suddenly, entire offices struggled to figure out Zoom, work remotely, and monitor the COVID-19 pandemic from lockdown in their homes. The pandemic transformed the workplace, leaving many utterly abandoned except for essential workers. Many senior executives and business leaders are opening the offices up and hoping to return to some form of normalcy. Although many areas are achieving terrific vaccination rates, other parts of the country or regions are witnessing a new wave of COVID outbreaks. How can your business attract workers back to the office when the pandemic continues–and when they’re comfortable working from home.

Staying Home Works

Workers learned quickly during quarantine that working from home works. There were growing pains, to be sure, as connectivity sometimes failed. Meetings had to be rescheduled, and new applications for remote work had to be found. However, through sheer ingenuity and determination, many offices struggled to get a remote work model up and running, and now–many workers seem to like it. As a business leader, how can you encourage them to return to the 9 to 5, get back into morning and evening traffic, and put on their business attire?

Play Hard Ball?

Executives will make demands, instructing employees to return by a hard date–or lose their job. This retention is a strategy, to be sure, but one that leaders should think about carefully. The current climate is in favor of employees. Businesses are struggling to find talent–to find bodies to work in their shops, hospitality venues, and, yes, offices. Many people do not want to go back. And they have their reasons.

Of course, they prefer to wear their slippers and pajama bottoms to work in their home office each day, but that’s not all. The pandemic has affected most aspects of life. Schools are calling off in-person classes with a day’s notice when a student contracts COVID. In many cases, families are caring for seniors to keep them from nursing homes or assisted living facilities where there may be a heightened risk for contracting the virus. Many employees are also weighing the risks for themselves and using this unprecedented time to make unusual changes in their lives–including career changes.

Embrace Flexibility

Many employees understand the necessity for a return to face-to-face work. There are many advantages to working together in an office space, for example, constant communication and increased guidance and coaching. Also, your work gets noticed, and you build stronger work relationships. Even so, the desire to work remotely exists. Moreover, employees and many executives know that the remote model can work–and work well. How flexible are you willing to be to meet the needs of your business and the preferences of your employees? Being flexible may mean the difference between retaining your talent and losing it to a company that offers a hybrid work model.

To encourage your team back to work in the office, consider the following:

  • Offer a hybrid type of system so that you can regain some of the advantages of working together in an office space.
  • Continue to monitor COVID and reduce the risk of contagion with a reduced in-office work crew.
  • Maintain your remote work system.

Who knows–if another variant of the virus breaks out (worse than the current Delta variant) or if the efficacy of the vaccine wanes over time, another shift to remote work may be needed in the wake of lockdowns. Work has to happen; that’s the priority. If it happens under their roof or yours, it’s still happening. For now, that’s a positive that everyone can agree on.


By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President and CEO of Barbachano International (BIP),

The Human Capital Solutions leader in Mexico, Latin America, and the USA, offering high-impact executive search, executive coaching, and outplacement.

About Barbachano International

Barbachano International (BIP) is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Latin America, & Canada) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets.  Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. Since 1992, BIP and its affiliates have impacted the profitability of over 50% of Fortune 500 Companies.  BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms and currently ranks #26 and #3 on the West Coast.  Headquartered in San Diego, California with satellite offices in Florida and Mexico.  As member-owners of NPAworldwide Recruitment Network, we are supported by partner offices in over 50 countries.


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