Safe to say, just about everybody is longing for something from the Before Times—a worry-free night out, a good, old-fashioned Chuck-E Cheese birthday party—each of us misses something. And employers are looking back fondly at the days when everybody worked together in one building. Oh, the meetings we could call, the projects we could manage, the morale we could boost with donuts!

But today’s employee is a vastly different entity from the one you sent home indefinitely back in March of 2020. No one yet has a clear picture of work’s new landscape, but there’s no doubt employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility of their home offices. Here are a few ideas for firing them up to return to the workplace.

Capture the Co-Working Vibe

Employees may seem reluctant to return to the site of their former 9–5, but meanwhile they are joining co-working spaces in droves. The independence, perks, and professional-social events are irresistible. Can employers bring some of this mojo on board?

  • Be flexible about time. If they’re still working for you after two years at home, they’ve probably got their rhythm all figured out, and maybe it’s just fine for folks to slip out and walk off the 3:00 slump.

  • The most successful co-working offices have a strong coffee game–no over-roasted grocery-store breakfast blends. Something artisan and high end, delicious and enticing, energizing and productivity-boosting, such as a rotating variety of small-batch-roasted beans. Or consider a cold-brew coffee program like our nitro-infused kegerator service. Coffee companies who specialize in cold brew (like us!) can deliver, maintain, service, and refill your kegerator and keep it steady flowing!

  • Host lunchtime or happy-hour workshops, seminars, and networking events: hors d’oeuvres and a talk from a cryptocurrency expert; a beer or cocktail and a nothing-is-off-limits project-pitch social hour; a baking class where everyone takes home a duck-shaped cake… WHY? Why not?

Value Their Time

As each employee suddenly had to carve out workspace at home, they became precious about their minutes out of necessity. Kids and laundry and a new season of The Mandalorian can keep you from your work all day if you let them. Slowly but surely, spare bedrooms were converted, schedules tweaked, boundaries set, and doors closed.

This is great news for employers, because by and large, employees are more productive now than they ever were prior to The Great Remotification. Employers can help sustain this by respecting employees’ time in kind.

  • A hybrid program may allow employees to continue to benefit a couple days a week from the focused time and space that home offers.

  • Leave it up to each manager to decide how often they need to see their team members in the office.

  • Commuting can add hours to employees’ days, and they may no longer be thrilled to do it for Dunkin alone. Is there a way you can compensate them for that time, like breakfast tacos once a week; a shorter workday; or even a straight-up commuter compensation program?

Make it Like Home, But Better

As employees turned their mother-in-law suites into offices, they found they could create their own happy place there. A colorful mural replaced the scuffed white paint on the “Zoom wall”; a collection of succulents appeared in place of the to-file pile; a vintage chair now sits where the exercise bike had gone to die. It’s quite cozy now, thank you very much. Employers may have more leverage here than they think. Consider what might it look like to:

  • Spruce up the whole joint with vibrant colors, plants, yoga balls, and PAC-MAN games. Take feedback from employees on what they’d like to see.

  • Make the office more child friendly. Many parents have yet to replace the childcare or after-care they lost when the pandemic began.

  • Create flex space where employees can choose to move around as needed—a variety of work settings like couches, cubicles, conference tables, open-concept clusters, and isolated “flow” rooms for deep work—you know, the start-up vibe. Different types of work (and different personality types) call for different work environments.
A whole heap of outcomes remain uncertain, but autonomy and agency seem to be at the heart of what employees will want moving forward. We have a chance to reinvent the workplace, so grab your Nom-Nom and your brainstorming cap. Let’s rock it!