Many employees are keen to continue working from home, which can put them on a collision course with their managers. Here are some tips to understand the needs and wishes of remote workers and incentivize them to return to the office.

As pandemic restrictions unwind, a wide spectrum of opinion is emerging on how to deal with employees who want to continue working from home. At one end of this spectrum, you’ll find managers happy to give workers full autonomy over where — and often when —  they work.

At the other end? A certain Elon Musk. In a recent companywide email, the Tesla CEO bluntly informed recipients that “Everyone is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week … If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

For most managers, the best approach will lie somewhere between “leave well alone” and “the full Elon.” To help find the right balance, ask yourself the following questions.

why do my employees want to work from home?

Despite evidence that a generally productive worker is just as productive at home as in the office, the stereotype of the chilled-out telecommuter in yoga pants persists. This can lead managers to make the faulty assumption that remote workers are entirely happy with their arrangement and would resist any attempt to modify it. But ask your employees why they want to work from home and their answers may surprise you. Some workers may like the office but hate the commute. Others who started at the company during the pandemic may wonder if they’re a good fit for your office culture. These are issues you can address through hybrid work arrangements and diversity and inclusion initiatives, respectively, encouraging reluctant home workers to return to the office in the process.

is home vs. office really my workforce’s biggest concern?

Stories about employees who want to continue working from home have become media staples. But the world has changed since 2020. A more enlightened workforce is on the march — one that wants to improve the world through purpose-driven employment and improve themselves through coaching, upskilling and reskilling. Talk to your remote employees about their plans and priorities. Rekindling their belief in your company’s mission and values could be all it takes to encourage them to spend more time in the office.

are my employees set up for success in the office?

No one ever said “the office is where the heart is,” but you can redesign your shared spaces to make them warmer and more appealing to people who have worked from home for two years. Repurpose an underutilized conference room into a huddle space or hang paintings by local artists. If regular fresh air breaks kept your remote workers sharp and productive during the lockdown era, encourage them to continue the practice.

am I setting the right example?

One of the more striking phrases in the Musk missive is: “The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence.” He makes a good point. Media coverage of employer-worker tensions tends to obscure the fact that many employees look to their managers for leadership, inspiration and career guidance — and the occasional Zoom chat just doesn’t cut it anymore. The more time you spend in the office, the more motivated your protégés will be to make the commute.

Navigating around the issue of employees who want to continue working from home is just one step toward building a more engaged, loyal and happier workforce. For deep and unique insights into what workers want and expect from their employers, download Randstad’s 2022 Workmonitor.