Return To Work Incentive Bringing Employees Back

return to work incentives

Labor Day 2022 is now behind us, the unofficial end of summer. Back to school and back to work for many Americans. I’m back from a late summer trip to Minneapolis to meet with my workplace greenery colleagues of the Silverado Roundtable, and I snuck in a family visit in Denver. I’m glad to be back at Good Earth Plant Company with many exciting new projects ahead this fall.

Minneapolis is a city full of green roofs like this one. Photo: Jim Mumford return to work incentive

Minneapolis is a city full of green roofs like this one. Photo: Jim Mumford

Public service announcement: Need us to enrich people’ lives with plants at work or home? Contact us now!

But back to work means something different after the coronavirus pandemic. It doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the office environment. Nearly two and a half years after the pandemic hit the U.S., employers struggle to bring staff back in. Workers have voted, and working from home has won.

A foosball table in the office won't cut it as a perk anymore. Photo: Chan Mina/Pixabay return to work incentive

A foosball table in the office won’t cut it as a perk anymore. Photo: Chan Mina/Pixabay

Employers keep trying to change their minds. Companies figured out the stick approach wasn’t working. Workers quit and found new jobs to accommodate them. So, they turned to the carrot with perks, incentives, events, and even contests with prizes. Some have worked. Others, not so much.

Common attempts include free meals, snacks, coffee bars, and happy hours. Other companies tried to get creative to lure people back. Trivia nights, yoga classes, and even office sleep pods for that quick afternoon siesta.

Kombucha, TopGolf, and Teslas

Workplaces are offering employees improved coffee bars and food to entice employees to come in. Photo: Matt Wilson/Pixabay

We read about several even more unusual approaches.

Credit Karma has a brand-new headquarters in Oakland. It offers employees a coffee bar, plus a game room, rooftop lounge, and kombucha nights by the fire pit.

One Bay Area tech employee reported on Reddit her employer set up a scavenger hunt. Employees had to visit each branch to check off a list and pick up prizes: an essential oil diffuser, picture frame, mini-Zen sand garden. She said these items were all intended to encourage people to use them on their office desks. She admitted she would have rather received a gift card and not wasted money on gas driving around. She still had no intention of working in a cubicle and said she’d quit if forced to do it. “I wish management would just admit that they never intended to be more flexible as soon as the pandemic would allow them to go back to the before times,” she said.

Google tried to get employees back to the office by giving them free e-scooter subscriptions worth $990 to help replace a commute. Workers were encouraged to use public transit and then e-bike the rest of the way. Since Google offers free shuttles from major transit stops, the e-bikes haven’t gone over too well.

Online food delivery company Deliveroo mandated that their employees return to the office three days a week. In return, it offered a relaxed dress code, free food, massages, and smoothie bikes. Employees could ride a stationary bike while working to blend a fresh smoothie. Presumably, this was considered a “wellness benefit.”

Want to play golf at the office? it's one of the new return to office incentives. Photo: Courtesy TopGolf

Want to play golf at the office? It’s one of the new return to office incentives. Photo: Courtesy TopGolf

Management firm Nuveen installed a virtual TopGolf “swing suite” in its New York office to help employees improve their golf swing by analyzing a player’s golf swings via built-in sensors. It goes with the fitness center, sky lounge, and full-time concierge already in place. Nuveen hoped employees would use virtual golf to bond with their co-workers.

But no company has gone as far as the real estate data company Co-Star. In a Wall Street Journal article one year ago, Co-Star’s list of incentives included a daily raffle for all employees who clocked into any of its 19 U.S. located offices that day. Prizes included the usual gift cards, but there was also a daily cash prize of $10,000, an all-expenses paid trip to Barbados, and a grand prize – a Model S Tesla.

Did it work? After several months, Co-Star’s office attendance increased from four percent to 20 percent.

Bring Nature to Work and Employees Will Follow

Employees want to work in spaces with sunlight, fresh air, natural materials and plants - AKA biophilic designed spaces. Photo: ReallyWellMadeDesks / Pixabay return to work incentives

Employees want to work in spaces with sunlight, fresh air, natural materials, and plants – AKA biophilic designed spaces. Photo: ReallyWellMadeDesks / Pixabay

Co-Star, talk to us at Good Earth Plant Company, read our blog, and download our white paper, The Nature of the Post-Pandemic Environment. We could have saved you a lot of money.

Our Eco-Warriors at Good Earth Plant Company have understood for years what employees want in their work environment, wherever it’s located, and what offers them the most health and wellness benefits – which result in increased productivity and creativity in their work.

It’s more than coffee bars; it’s science. Studies repeatedly show providing workspaces based on biophilic design principles yields all these benefits. It’s a simple approach. Introducing elements of nature, including natural light, fresh air, and organic materials like real wood, stone, and plants.

Biophilic design for the post-pandemic workplace can start with plants.

Businesses and employees don’t look at workplaces or work the way they did in 2020. The Great Resignation (or Realignment or Renegotiation) accelerated a HEALTHIER new way of thinking about what it means to “go to work.”

In our white paper, we explain (backed by data) how fostering a healthy workplace culture with the flexibility to accommodate a hybrid menu of options can flourish, driven by biophilic design and workplace greenery.

Employees now want the best of both worlds: the focus and comfort of working from home, along with the ability to return to collaborative workspaces to be part of a team, contributing to the return of a robust economy and enriched lives. But they want the workplace to support their well-being and be at least as supportive as the alternative at home.

Employers, this is the kind of workspace you’re competing with. Which will your employees choose? Photo: Standsome

We’ve been following the Working From Home Research Project (WFH Research). Since March 2021, WFH Research has tracked 78,000 U.S. employees ages 20 to 64 working full time. A comprehensive report published earlier this year found 42% of all employees would either look for a new job or quit if their employer required an immediate full-time return to the office; this increases among women and minority employees.


Workforce Well-being Is Not A Luxury

In a survey conducted by Morning Consult, employees working from home engaged in more healthy practices. Now they insist on the same benefit in the workplace.

After two years under the weight of enormous pandemic stress, working adults have been forced to make their emotional and mental health a priority. Three times as many employees over 60 retired in 2020 and 2021 than anticipated. Service industry workers said no to difficult working conditions for low pay. Millennial and Gen-Z employees sought better jobs.

Sixty percent of people who have worked from home say it improved their health, and 40% said they spend more time outdoors, taking walks, and being more active.

Workplace well-being is no luxury. It must be a priority. Without healthy employees, there is no innovation, collaboration, productivity, or profits. Human resources professionals can turn to partners among the greenery professional community who can help with cost-effective solutions to create appealing, comfortable, collaborative workplaces drawing employees back to the office.

The post pandemic office will be filled with light and plants when employees return in 2021. Phjoto: Valeria Boltneva plant stylist

The 21st-century office should be filled with light and plants when employees return. Photo: Valeria Boltneva

Surveys are missing the attempt to capture the health benefits and increased time spent outdoors enjoyed by people working at home and integrating them into the new hybrid fluid workplace.

There’s a lot more in our white paper, and Good Earth Plant Company encourages you to take a look here. It’s not a dry toast academic document – it is bursting with design and color from our photos showing beautiful examples of nature-influenced workspaces.

It costs a lot less to try our biophilic design approach than a Caribbean vacation or a Tesla. What have you got to lose?