Rewarding In-Office time. Is this Madness?

Isn’t it bizarre how the ‘reason’ for commuting to an office base to do work wasn’t a ‘thing’ until March 2020.

A bit like wearing clothes. We don’t have to but it is frowned upon, greatly, if you didn’t. However the expectations of the working world changed overnight (and thankfully not fashion or the rules around indecent exposure) and we’ve all been wondering why we bothered (and lost so much family time and salary in rail fares and petrol all these years). Now the ‘purpose’ of in-office time IS a thing and we are asking questions about it.

And while we ponder on this new found phenomenon, company leaders are cautious about handing in their notice to landlords… Is this movement here to stay or will we do a 360 uturn when we realise working life was perfect the way it was because it was also a social life? Conundrum.

So, we’ve asked members of our community from around the world some questions on how employees can be motivated to return to the office (regardless of the flexibility) and what advantages there are to make commuting attractive again AND if we should reward In-office time?

Some thought this was daft, others celebrated that people love the office. Others remarked how thought provoking this was but isn’t salary the reward?

This is what some of our contributors said from around the world:

Claire Bingham, Engagement and Operations Director, FMI Agency, UK

Certainly a thought-provoking question. It is about employers empowering staff to manage their time and location, choosing the right mix for their individual needs. The incentive alone to visit an office or shared work space is surely our underlying desire as humans for interaction and engagement. We need to worry less about the location of staff and focus more on their output – if they are excelling and achieving their objectives the location of work is less important. At FMI Agency – Brand | Incentives | Events we have found #gamification to be far more impactful with non-direct employees who are working remotely. Anything is achievable if there is strong leadership and a focus on people first. It’s about instilling the right behaviours and attitudes for full employee engagement.

Michael Livingstone – CEO, DUSTid, UK

The office was never just about work, it’s also the place where 15-20% of us meet our partners. Surely isn’t that enough of an incentive.

Caroline Watson, CEO, Voucherline, UK

It is a shame that a company has to feel they need to do this just to see bums at desks, however for long term home workers returning, having a great welcome day back or welcome week would be fun with prizes to be won for team efforts, or simply allowing them to work shorter hours in the office for the first few weeks, so they can acclimatise to being back in the rat race again?

Our hours changed in lockdown to 8am to 4pm. We have kept this as it was so successful. That was our gift to our staff! Customers have welcomed it happily. 😀

Lia Grimberg, Senior Director, Loyalty and Insights, Canada

Why do you need to reward employees for coming to the office? They should only come in if they have client meetings, team building or collaborative meetings that would benefit from face to face. But would you want to reward me for sitting at my desk and working by myself? Why?

Robert Ordever, Managing Director, OC Tanner, UK

At the start of the pandemic, I really felt like our eyes had been opened to the pointlessness of the office, but as time has gone on, I realise how much I appreciate real human connection. Of course, reward and recognition are essential to culture (don’t take my word for it, there is plenty of independent research), but I miss hearing people clapping for colleagues. I miss walking around the office and seeing the pride with which people display awards or show off what they bought with their points for great work. I miss meeting contacts and partners in coffee shops without the worry of a mute button. I think the reality is that we all need balance and therefore perhaps unsurprising to see such a movement towards hybrid or flex.

I don’t think we need to incentivise people to return, we just have to remind them how good it feels to be together. Appreciate their work publicly – nothing feels better.

Jeff Stoffa, Sales Executive, Cloud Carib, US

I remember how before the pandemic, working from home for a day a week (usually Friday) was somehow seen as a “treat” almost like it was understood that you were being awarded some kind of a special ….”treat.” . It was this ultimate achievement for the employee and a kind of an award by the employer for good behavior/performance. Now that it’s become so normalized, I look back on those days and realize how much we socialized, walked to Starbucks together, celebrated birthdays, had people’s kids come to work which stopped any productivity altogether, stood on the pavement during fire drills and bomb scares, laughed with coworkers, etc.. I remember that on a Monday, by the time I got done with all the people visiting my cubicle to tell me about their weekend, it would be 10am. Now I sit alone at home and work with few breaks. So it’s kind of funny to look back and realize that in actuality, the treat was being in the office having more fun, though productivity was lower. I think as employees we got tired of spending all day with each other and welcomed the break from each other on a “Work from home” Friday- especially if you were in a cubicle environment where all day you could hear every conversation around you.

Kristie Atkins, Managing Partner at Wink, Australia

Collaboration and team development are always harder remotely. It’s important to have time for that together, regardless of the specific location. Offering a reward for arriving sounds like we’re congratulating people for just turning up (“every child wins a prize”). Let’s focus on using incentives and rewards for “over and above” performance, achievement of stretch goals and even more importantly, demonstrating strong support for friends and colleagues in the topsy turvy, COVID impacted working environment.

Xoxoday, India

Hm it is a great thought to ponder over as tech has bridged the gap of physical dimension to feel the bond that exists between teams. As agents of change, we need to keep it exciting for our people. Be it in the office or the outside. It is about where we need to supply an extra dose of excitement, for now, life at the office needs it more. Rewards campaigns are adding life back to the building that we call the office. We saw a similar thing last year as well where new systems needed that excitement and we delivered there too.

Let us not forget we are just adding the extra dose of excitement to the side that needs it. People will choose what works for them.
Yes, while doing that we make it exciting with rewards!

Dave Thompson, MapleX Naturals Inc, Canada

I would assume the reward is the Salary. If an employee can go to a restaurant, concert, sporting event, etc. I would think they can go into the office.