A return-to-office strategy can guide employees through new ways of working and interacting with colleagues. To help you create yours, we curated RTO examples and advice from top companies across the globe.
Building policies around data and feedback
The success of your RTO strategy depends on how well you understand when and where employees prefer to work and what changes they’d like to see in office design or hybrid policies. Don’t rely on old assumptions about what employees want or how they use a space.
This approach has worked well for Cisco. “We’ve grounded our decisions in data and listening to our people, and we haven’t tried to retrofit previous ways of working into today’s highly complex, evolved environment,”1 says SVP and Chief People Officer Kelly Jones.
Collecting data takes time, but the results are worth it. Using a mix of sensor data and employee feedback (submitted via QR code), Indeed redesigned its workspaces and boosted occupancy 400% across its worldwide portfolio in less than a year.2
Using a mix of sensor data and employee feedback, Indeed boosted occupancy 400% across its portfolio.
Plan in-person with intention
Employees want the flexibility of hybrid and remote, but they also value the social connections and culture building that happens in person.
Dropbox provides a perfect example of why it’s important to balance these. The company saw record-high turnover when it moved to a remote-first model. After adding intentional in-person events at least once per quarter, their attrition rate dropped dramatically and employee engagement improved.3
“There's just something special about intentionally being together, building culture, building rapport, breaking bread together,” Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab, says. “It matters, and [office] spaces can be hallowed ground for bringing people together.”
To get the most from in-office days, they need to be orchestrated rather than left to develop organically. Collaborative projects, team-building activities, and mentorship opportunities (something Gen Z wants more of)1 are all excellent choices for in-person days.
“What companies need to prioritize is having people in the office in a substantive way to create that watercooler effect, which they’re much more likely to do with a retreat or an offsite,” 4 Nick Lovegrove, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, says.
Planning a retreat or an offsite may not be in every manager’s wheelhouse. Dropbox recognized this and created the “offsite in a box” toolkit to guide managers through every step of the process.3 This provides an easy way for managers to create the high-quality, in-person experiences employees need to feel inspired and connected.
Dropbox created the "offsite in a box" toolkit to guide managers through the process.
Design with flexibility in mind
The office has to be much more dynamic now to support new ways of working. When Twilio moved from dedicated desks to a hybrid model, it updated offices to support this new flexibility.
“We're reallocating those spaces as hackable spaces, scrum spaces. We're calling them dynamic spaces, where furniture is reconfigurable,” Devorah Rosner, Senior Manager of Global Workplace Operations, says. “It's no longer one-size-fits-all. It allows more variety to meet people where they are, to work how they work.”
Indeed took a slightly different approach and dedicated specific areas to support certain types of work. Offices include casual areas for collaboration and informal meetings, conference rooms for presentations and large meetings, and game rooms where workers can decompress.2
Though they designed these areas with specific activities in mind, their movable walls ensure teams can reconfigure the spaces if needed.
Iterate, measure, repeat
There’s no deadline for return-to-office or improving the employee experience. It’s an ongoing process of reviewing utilization data, collecting feedback, and iterating to find the best solutions for your teams. Build into your RTO strategy a plan for regularly taking stock of what’s working, what’s not, and any new needs employees have voiced.
“We want to make sure that we don’t just declare victory, but we look at the data to see what we can do better and improve things that are not working,” Priscilla Koranteng, Chief People Officer at Indeed, says. “Innovation is part of our values; because of that, it’s never done.” 2
1 How HR executives at Amazon, Google, and 8 other Fortune 500 companies are developing return-to-office strategies
2 Movable walls and motion-activated sensors: Inside Indeed’s hybrid office redesign | Fortune
3 Dropbox let employees work remotely and saw record-high turnover. Then it offered in-person retreats. Retention soared
4 The office of the future will be intentional about in-person work, cater to employees, and driven by performance metrics