Employee in an office celebrating

7 Tips for Retaining Employees When You Return to the Office


One of the biggest challenges in the coming year will be employee retention. Remote workers have been sheltering in place for months – both in their homes and in their jobs. As companies announce their return to in-office work, staff who have been working from home are considering their options. This has business analysts concerned about a pending “Great Resignation,” a trend where workers would rather quit their jobs than cease working remotely.

In our recent report, “What Candidates Want,” nearly 50% of the 5,835 job seekers said they prefer remote work opportunities. Now that employees have adjusted to the flexibility provided by working from home, asking them to rearrange their lives (again) and return to the “old normal” could lead to a mass exodus, which would upend teams and even entire companies as they scramble to replace essential staff.

The cost per hire is, on average, over $4,000, and it takes around 42 days to complete the recruiting process. These costs are compounded when you have a bad hire. To avoid all of this, use these seven solid strategies to retain your current workforce:


1. Poll Employees

Ask specific questions about work preferences to get a baseline on how they feel about returning to the office. Find out if their reluctance stems from fear, logistical concerns, or some other issue, then create a plan to address it.


2. Meet with Resistant Team Members

Talk to employees one-on-one and ask them outright if they are considering resigning. Be understanding of their individual circumstances and search for ways you can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.


3. Offer Additional Compensation or Benefits

A white paper from Cendex found that nearly half of all employers only review salaries once a year. To retain irreplaceable employees, check your budget and to see if you can negotiate salary increases or other benefits now that will entice employees to stay. A higher salary or non-traditional benefit like childcare or elderly care might be all it takes to retain a valued employee.


Supervisor and direct report reaching an agreement


4. Discuss Promotions

A new title with increased responsibility is a huge career move. Don’t let irreplaceable members of your team make the leap elsewhere. If they’re ready to move up, offer them a promotion. If they aren’t quite ready, lay out a professional development plan that will get them there. Be clear on what’s required and your timeline. Working toward a goal will keep employees engaged.


5. Offer a Hybrid Work Option

Popular video giant TikTok and other Silicon Valley companies are striking a balance between in-office mandates and work-from-home options. They’re requiring workers to only be in the office three days a week. This hybrid approach gives employees more time to adjust their personal schedules during the transition. For example, in two-parent households where both parents have two flex days, they might only need childcare one day per week.  


6. Explain the Benefits of Working In-House vs. Freelance 

As the job market picks up, some people are considering shifting to freelance work. While the flexibility may be attractive, they likely won’t have the same benefits – and the ones they do have, they’ll need to pay for out of pocket. Additionally, self-employed workers are subject to different tax laws, including additional income tax for Social Security and Medicare, which was 15.3% in 2020. Initially, the increase in salary may be enticing, but workers should know about the additional requirements and how they chip away at profits.


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7.Give Bonuses 

Essential workers in some states are being offered bonuses for remaining onsite during the pandemic. Your employees were critical to keeping your organization running, so why not consider giving them a bonus to help offset the costs of commuting or other expenses associated with a return to the office?


Bonus: Create a Plan for “Always-Remote” Employees

One last thing to keep in mind when you’re bringing employees “back to the mothership” is that always-remote employees, those who onboarded during the pandemic, will need special attention when they head into the office for the first time. Make sure you have a plan for them to settle into both the physical surroundings and your office culture. Provide them with a welcoming and inclusive experience from day one so you can keep them around for years to come.


The key to retaining employees when you return to the office is meeting them where they are. Ask the right questions and find ways to negotiate solutions. After all, you appreciate your staff for working so diligently to keep your business afloat during uncertain times. When you strike the right balance, “The Great Resignation” will just be a news headline and not a concern for you and your company.

by: Jason Harless
July 15, 2021