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August 10, 2022

Do We Need An Official RTO?

Here's how to get the data you need to decide when, how, and if you should have an official RTO, as well as how to make it work.

A return to the office can have multiple benefits that make it worth it long term. From collaboration to morale-building and a stronger sense of team--office work can benefit everyone. 

However, do you need to have an official return to office (RTO)? As is the case with most important decisions, the answers to this question should be driven by data. Here's how to get the data you need to decide when, how, and if you should have an official RTO, as well as how to make it work.

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Do a gut check with employees

A successful RTO will depend on more than just a desire to have all employees in a single place or space. By measuring how employees feel, you can gain a qualitative understanding of RTO sentiment. Then, you're in a position to leverage this data to make a more definitive decision that accounts for everyone's opinions. Here are some different ways to collect essential data you could use to drive or halt your RTO.

Use surveys to figure out what will make employees return

Some employees will return simply because you ask them to and because they want to keep their jobs. But relying on this group, which could be small, to create the groundswell you need to bring everyone back into the office may not be the best strategy. It's far better to ask specific questions regarding what would make employees want to return to the office. Some questions you can put on a survey may include:

  • What could we do to create the kind of office space you would love to work in?
  • When you were working in the office, what did you like best about the physical space in which you worked? What did you like least?
  • Is there anything your home office offers that our office doesn't?
  • Does the office environment excite or inspire you?
  • Do you feel safe and comfortable in the office?
  • What would be the ideal number of days you would want to come into the office every week?
  • What are the top three factors that contribute to your desire to work from home? 

When employees provide answers, your objective should be to use these to:

  • Provide reasonable concessions for those who want to stay home.
  • Figure out how to redesign the physical spaces in which people work in your office.

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Gather info from those who are already coming in

Another source of valuable data is the employees that are already coming into the office. Each person's reason may be different, but regardless of what drives them to make the commute, you can use their sentiments to structure your approach to RTO.

It may be best to use an anonymous survey when gathering this information, particularly because people may be hesitant to share the real reasons why they chose to come in. For example, if the answer is simply, "Because I know you want me to," they could think this reply may not paint them as a team player that's personally invested in your company's success. 

In an anonymous survey, they may be more likely to provide honest answers.

You can ask questions such as:

  • What element of our office space makes it a comfortable place to work?
  • What aspect of the physical office could change to make you feel even more productive and comfortable?
  • What was the number one factor that inspired you to return to the office?
  • Does the office provide you with the tools you need to do your job?

How to use survey data to determine your RTO strategy

Once you've gathered your data, it's time to put it to use. The first step is to accept that the responses may not provide the answer you were hoping for. But remember: all data is good data. If you're determined to get as many employees back in the office as possible, you may be able to unearth insights regarding the best way to structure your RTO.

For example, the question, "What could we do to create the kind of office space you would love to work in?" is extremely valuable. Even if the majority of employees say they would only want to come in one day a week--or less--you can possibly raise that number by making adjustments based on what they say they'd like to see in the office.

You can also correlate the data and align answers according to who expressed each one. For example, if people who only wanted to come in two or fewer days also said they wanted a more flexible work environment, you can make the kinds of changes they'd like to see.

What if the data indicates an official RTO isn't feasible?

Again, it's important to keep in mind that the data you find should be respected, so if a critical mass indicates it doesn't want to come back in, you can still use that information to guide your approach to RTO.

For instance, instead of deciding on an official RTO date, you can let employees choose a range of how many days they'd like to come to work and also a timeframe for when they'd like to start. The choices of the number of days and time frames can be decided according to teams of people.

For example, suppose the majority of the marketing team wants to come in between two and three days a week, and would like to start making the transition between one and two months in the future. You could then have the marketing team come in on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and start requiring their in-person attendance in a month and a half.

Of course, while this may work for that team, it may not be a great fit for others, which means you may have to have a relatively complex in-person attendance grid. Even though this may not be ideal, it makes a strong statement to your employees, reiterating the fact that you care about their happiness and comfort. The result could enhance employee morale and productivity.

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Apply incremental changes

Regardless of the conclusion you reach based on your data, it's best to apply changes incrementally. For example, you could have people come in by teams, forming your strategy around the teams that have to interact the most with each other. To illustrate, perhaps the quality assurance and product development teams heavily depend on each other's feedback. If so, it may make sense to have them phase their way back in simultaneously.

Regardless of how, when, and if you implement an official RTO strategy, measuring performance can help you determine the degree to which it succeeded. There are several ways to collect this data. Here are some that may be particularly useful:

  • The frequency with which people use certain rooms and spaces in your office.
  • Differences in how often people utilized specific spaces compared to before they started working from home.
  • Spaces that the vast majority of people tend to avoid.
  • Correlations between the tools or resources in specific spaces and how frequently people use them. 

When the data reveals that an element of your plan was successful, you can repeat it. For instance, if people who work in a lounge area that you created tend to have higher productivity, it may be worthwhile to make another one. The same goes for other kinds of successful spaces.

Get your RTO strategy right with Saltmine

Saltmine empowers you to gather all the data you need to figure out which designs and workspaces have the biggest impact on employee productivity and comfort. By collecting and analyzing this information, you can meet your employees where they are and support a more efficient RTO.

To learn more about how Saltmine can help with your RTO and future of work, check out the video below:

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