Several people sit in plush chairs inside of a train. Closest to the viewer, sitting in a seat on the left side of the train, is a woman with tied-back blonde hair. She wears an assymetrical pale blue blouse and looks at the open laptop in front of her with a look of concentration. One row back and sitting on the right side of the train is a man in a dark jacket. He looks down at something in his hands.
One way to get employees back to the office is to make the trip easier. Offering your employees a travel stipend or reimbursement plan could ease the cost of a daily commute. — Getty Images/Maskot

Work-from-home opportunities won’t disappear any time soon, but some businesses need their employees back in the office. However, the prospect of returning to the office might not be too appealing to every employee.

To ease the transition, try offering unique incentives that quell employee fears, solve their problems, and excite them to return to the office.

Offer a hybrid work schedule

Most companies aren’t requiring their employees to return to the office five days a week. In fact, 77% of organizations have adopted some form of hybrid work policy. A hybrid work system allows workers to come into the office for part of the week, usually two or three days, and work remotely on the remaining days. Some offices enact a fully “at-will” hybrid policy, where employees can choose to come into the office as much or as little as they’d like.

Offering a hybrid work schedule shows you value your employees’ work-life balance while ensuring they maintain a physical presence in the office. Employees can still attend meetings and work on projects in person while having the flexibility to work from home and tend to their personal needs.

[Read more: Return to Office: How to Structure a Hybrid Work Week]

Reimburse travel expenses

Commuting to work, for the majority of employees, involves more than just walking a few blocks. Most employees either drive or take public transportation to the office, and given inflation and the recent rise in gas prices, the cost to commute is hitting harder than ever. Businesses can relieve some of this burden by offering to cover some or all of their employees’ travel expenses through a travel reimbursement plan or commuter stipend.

For companies that don’t have a parking lot, you can offer discounted or designated parking. Not only do these policies take the stress out of commuting, but they also show that you value employees’ time from the moment they leave their home in the morning to when they return later that evening.

Focus on wellness

More than ever, employees are focused on their mental and physical well-being and gravitating toward companies that recognize these priorities. As a reward for coming into the office, host on-site wellness classes, such as yoga, body strength training, or dancing. These classes relax the mind and body and keep your team mentally and physically sharp. If your office has a gym inside or nearby, you can also offer membership discounts to promote an active lifestyle and add an incentive for making the trip to the office.

Mental health benefits are another way to prioritize wellness. Check with your providers to see if you can add or increase benefits, like therapy, so employees feel supported in and out of the office.

[Read more: 8 Ways to Welcome Employees Back to Work in Person]

Offering a hybrid work schedule shows you value your employees’ work-life balance while ensuring they maintain a physical presence in the office.

Provide free meals

When working from home, employees can quickly make a meal or heat leftovers for lunch, which is both time- and cost-efficient. When in the office, employees don’t have as many meal options or as much flexibility, so many workers eat out. Based on your budget, offer meals daily, weekly, or monthly as a thank you to your employees for coming in. Not only will it make your employees feel valued, but it also offers important bonding time when they have an opportunity to share a meal together. Another option is to have a free snack bar stocked with filling options, so employees can take a quick snack break during the day.

Offer a child care stipend

For many working parents, remote working eliminated the need for a babysitter or daycare service. If employees are going back to the office, offer a stipend that covers the employee’s cost of sending their kids to child care. For larger corporations, consider adding a child care service on-site so employees can drop off their kids as they enter work and pick them up when they leave.

[Read more: 5 Ways to Support Employees Returning to Work During COVID-19]

Invest in new technology

Sometimes, your at-home work setup just doesn’t cut it. One way to entice your employees to come into the office is by making their job easier in the office. Invest in technology that increases productivity and streamlines workflow, and make it accessible to everyone who needs it. Some companies cannot afford to equip every employee’s remote setting with new technology and office supplies. However, if you offer these tools in the office, employees will be motivated to come in to get their work done quicker and more efficiently.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 14, 2022