Return to the office: How to help your people adapt

Return to the office: How to help your people adapt

Return to the Office

How do you help your people adapt to the office when they return after a long time working remotely?

We’re hearing more stories about companies introducing mandatory days in the office, with Zoom’s announcement happening this week.

Why are companies moving back to the office?

Businesses are moving people back to the office for several reasons, including collaboration, productivity and innovation. As well as utilising expensive office spaces.

Working from Home studies are helping leaders make decisions based on data. One study recently concluded that remote working resulted in 10-20% lower productivity whilst other studies paint a more positive picture for hybrid working.

Return to the office trends

The amount of people working from home exclusively in the UK has decreased by 14% from 2022 to 2023. However only 10% of hybrid workers want to return to a fully remote work model.

Helping your people adapt to the office

In this blog we’re exploring how to help your people adapt when they move back to the office. Whether that’s mandatory or voluntary. Even one extra day a week can send shock waves through your team.

Here’s what to watch out for and how to support your people. When you navigate your people through change this can lead to increased wellbeing, better productivity and building relationships within the team.

Reducing distractions at work

Let’s face it, offices can be noisy, especially in sectors with a high volume of inbound or outbound calls.

For people who are used to a quiet controlled environment at home this can severely limit their ability to perform.

What’s more people inevitably have conversations in the office, and whilst this can build rapport it can affect productivity and focus if this happens too frequently.

To combat this:

Consider flexible working hours so people who struggle with noise can take advantage of working earlier or later.

Ensure unnecessary noise is kept to a minimum:

  • Keep the radio at a reasonable volume
  • Allow ‘do not disturb’ messages on desks
  • Encourage focused meetings to talk through ideas rather than repeated spontaneous interruptions

Empower people to be more assertive in speaking up about ways to help keep their working environment productive.

Confidentiality in the office

There will be times when you don’t want people listening in. From managers having 1-to-1’s with their remote reports, to client confidential discussions.

Make sure you have a space you can go to and have privacy ideally on-site. Be aware that more junior members of the team may still need this privacy on calls not just the leaders.

Work-life balance and wellbeing

Whilst there are many perks to being together in the office be aware of the repercussions for your your employees.

The cost of petrol or train tickets can run into the 100s or more per month and this is made worse during the cost-of-living crisis.

What’s more coming back into the office can be damaging to a work-life balance and your staff may need to navigate other commitments such as school runs or carer responsibilities.

In a survey by Slack 37% felt anxious or stressed by the prospect of returning to the office with 49% citing work-life balance as their main concern.

If you can help employees by reimbursing for car parking or commuting this can help their financial wellbeing and increase employee retention.

If this isn’t an option consider other ways to make the move back to the office personally advantages to your team, for example by investing in their development.

Doing it for the right reasons

The danger of returning to the office is that many organisations are ordering people back without pausing to looking at the statistics in detail or considering how the culture change and mental health of the team will be affected.


It may be true on the surface that it’s harder to keep your people engaged and productive whilst remote working but make sure you benchmark and assess before you create an initiative that demotivates your team or reduces the very metrics, such as productivity, that you’re trying to improve.


If you are calling people into the work in the name of collaboration, make sure you have a good communication system in place, so people aren’t turning up on days when other people aren’t in. Coming in ‘for no reason’ can lead to resentment, especially if they had to put arrangements in place or pay for a train ticket.

Employee Engagement

Be aware that ordering a return back to the office may mean people vote with their feet. Also, if you’re introducing a mandatory move as part of a new hiring process consider if this sets you at a disadvantage compared to competitors, especially against competitors introducing progressive perks such as the 4-day working week.

If there’s a clear reason you want new hires in more, for development or if they have people management responsibilities then ensure you communicate the ‘why’ effectively in the job ad. People will be more likely to accept a change if this is for a step up in their career or to learn new skills.

Communicating culture change – Return to the office

Have an open policy when it comes to communicating changes in the working environment to your team. Big changes like being in the office more can have a ripple effect especially when people are blindsided. This can create a discord between your team and leadership in the company and lead to resentment.

Ensure you promote the positives to your people and not just the organisation.


Working from home allows people to use lunchtime to cook healthy meals, exercise and sit in a comfy space.

Make sure you have the right spaces for people to sit and take lunch in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

This avoids people working through lunch by eating at their desks, putting them at risk of burnout, plus research has found that people who eat together form stronger bonds.

Fairness at work

Coming back to the office has its own complications, including ensuring that presenteeism in the psychical office doesn’t lead to favouritism and better opportunities for those whose home life allows them to come to work more.

For example women are being held back as they choose flexible hours or working from home for childcare reasons. What’s more 40% of managers surveyed said they’d already observed opinion or behaviours suggesting an inequality between flexible workers and those who didn’t opt for this.

Returning to work may also affect your neurodivergent staff. Not putting suitable adjustments in place can be detrimental to their mental health. Hot desking can particularly effect neurodivergent employees as it doesn’t give them their own space.

Looking after your introverts

During the pandemic some of us really struggled with the lack of social interaction. But some people work very effectively alone and may find the transition back to work very difficult. Keep an eye on your team to look out for wellbeing red flags.

Return to the office – Empowering your team

We’ve helped businesses go fully remote and helped others transition back to the workplace.

If you’re exploring whether to introduce mandatory days back in the workplace and you need a sounding board speak with our team. We offer HR support and have wellbeing and innovation specialists who can help you explore the best way forward for your business.

Let’s Talk?

Last Updated on 5 months by Hannah Ingram