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After a year of remote working during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics show that Australian’s are slowly adapting their work from home set up and are heading back to an office of some kind.
In April 2021, the Property Council of Australia surveyed landlords from central business districts across the country and found that offices were filling up again, with an occupancy rate of 70% in Perth and Adelaide, 63% in Canberra and Brisbane, 60% in Melbourne and 40% in Sydney. This uptick in occupancy comes with its own set of logistical challenges – like restrictions on how many people can work in a space – but also presents questions around the best way to encourage employees back into the office. Recent studies conducted by PWC estimate that around 90% of Australians would prefer at least a hybrid work from home model to continue. So if you’re transitioning from remote working to part-time or full-time office work, we’ve got some ideas on how to welcome back your staff.
A lot of businesses took great lengths to pivot and become flexible when the world shifted to work from home requirements. And while Australia’s pandemic response has awarded greater freedoms for a return to office spaces, a lot of small businesses could find reward in keeping this flexibility alive post-COVID. As previously mentioned, most Australians would prefer some sort of flexible working policy that allows them to work from home a couple of days a week. Does your business structure allow for remote work? If so, it could be a good idea to offer this option to employees as a show of good will and to boost team morale. In fact, more than two-thirds of workers think their productivity is higher in home-office setups.
If your business flourishes more when everyone’s on-site, it’s best to consider the changes that may have happened in your employee’s lives during the pandemic and working from home. Some workers may have moved further away from your office site – do you need to reassess working hours to account for changes to schedules and travel time? Or could you offer other benefits like a commuting supplement?
Keep communication open
While some of your staff might be itching to get back into the office, months of working from home might make others a little hesitant. It’s important to hear your employees if they have concerns about returning to the office. Use online portals to gather anonymous feedback and create a weekly or monthly forum to discuss issues with remote working and on-site working. These tools, along with an open communication policy, will help you gauge your team’s morale. Once you’ve received feedback, the next step is to address the concerns brought to your attention. Can these issues be resolved by a flexible working policy? Or does your team just need a token of thanks and appreciation?
Bring back team building activities
2020 put a lot of pressure on small businesses and your team’s morale might need a boost. Bring back the getting-to-know-you spirit with classic team building exercises. While word of team building might conjure images of trust falls and illicit groans from your staff, there are ways you can make it fun and worthwhile. We’ve got a stellar list of online team building games, but if you’re heading into an office, consider activities that let you step outside the four walls of your workspace. Classic ideas include after-work drinks and team lunches – and with the NSW government set to entice workers into the CBD with Friday Food Vouchers, it’s the perfect opportunity to support small Australian businesses and socialise with staff. Other options that get you outside and bonding include a team sports day. You can limit it to a lunch-break activity in a nearby park or dedicate a whole day for a social tournament off-site. We also love the idea of creating personalised hats, team jerseys and T-shirts, and letting the team keep these as mementos.
How to print your own T-shirts
Step 1: Pick your fabric.
Classic cotton is great for a low-intensity activity or to re-wear on non-sport days. But if you plan on breaking a sweat, a moisture-wicking performance jersey would be a better fit.
Step 2: Personalise your design.
Here’s where the fun begins. Choose colours (maybe your employees’ favourite or your brand colours), add a funny picture, your business name and logo. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your own custom shirt and your staff will really appreciate the personality you inject into your design.
Step 3: Select your sizes and order your T-shirt.
Hand them out to employees ahead of time or on your team sports day.
A little thanks can go a long way in boosting team morale and praise is best served in-person. A weekly shoutout where you can thank employees is a great way to bring some positivity to your space. Did somebody do a great job or make the office a better place for everyone? Be specific and give them praise for a job well done. Encouraging other employees to follow-suit also amps up the feel-good factor. Another option that’s always a winner is gift – who said you have to wait for Christmas or birthdays! A bottle of wine or gift card will always be appreciated and are great picks, but you can also create something personalised for your staff that they can use in the office.
Best custom welcome-back gifts for employees
Personalised mugs – Their morning coffee is better served from a mug with their name on it.
Notepads – Bring a sense of whimsy and fun to to-do lists.
Cinema light box – A great way to dress up a desk with letters and symbols that let you mix up your message each day.
Thank you cards – Simple, sweet and to the point – a thank you card says it all.