Free groceries, vaccination requirements are key to courting back office workers

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If you’re looking to get Chicago employees back to the office for a big meeting, schedule it for Thursday and provide a range of free groceries, according to data gathered by a leading workplace management software company.

Why it matters: Many employers in Chicago and across the country had their return to work plans thwarted by the Delta option this fall. Now companies that want to plan important personal meetings must first get employees on board.

Driving the news: Robin, a company that makes software for workplace logistics, has released its most recent national data on who comes back to the office, who doesn’t, and where.

  • The data is based on insights from Robin’s software, which is helping employers implement a desk booking system in their offices.

Zoom in: The percentage of Chicago employees returning to the office rose only 3% in August, after a 90% increase in July.

  • Desk bookings were down around 18% in August, compared to a 168% increase in July.
  • Thursday is the preferred working day for Chicago residents, closely followed by Tuesday and Wednesday.

The big cityscape: Many Chicago workers – like those in other major cities – have moved farther away from the office and don’t want to take the daily commute on public transport or pay high parking fees, says Robin co-founder Zach Dunn of Axios.

The national picture:

What put workers off, according to Robin intelligence:

  • Asking workers to return on certain days for no good reason.
  • All workers must wear masks when sitting alone at their desks.
  • Return to large, mostly empty offices.

What woos workers back to the office:

  • Know when other key employees will be there.
  • The promise of free breakfast and / or lunch.
  • Vaccine Verification Mandates.
  • Flexible schedules.

What’s next: Dunn expects more companies to postpone the full return until next year, but still hold the occasional face-to-face meeting. And he warns employers to remain flexible.

  • When employers tighten the rules on the days “people have to be in the office, they see a brain drain,” he says. “Because you know what, you compete against people who don’t have these rules.”


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