How can small businesses inspire their employees back into the office?

workspaces, environments

As parts of the country continue to open up, businesses are beginning to think about returning to their workplaces, and policies around that. Whilst many employees missed the office as they continued working from home for a prolonged period, suddenly the idea of giving up our flexibility, extra time, and quiet space to be back commuting to our desks, can feel unappealing for many.

While we can all dream about throwing extravagant “welcome back” parties, with expansive office spaces to make us feel inspired, for most small businesses this is just not the reality. More than that, our research of over 9,000 employees has shown that a range of social, wellness and collaborative activities, will be key in drawing people back into the workspace, not activities that are expensive or over the top.

So, to inspire employees back into the office, small businesses must be thinking “how can we create a compelling experience for employees?”. The workplace is now much more than just a physical space, it’s about creating an environment that is productive, sustainable, innovative, and unique to an organisation’s culture.

Workplace activities

Our research tells us that 80% of people will want to work from the office for around 3 days a week. This means that working in the office needs to involve social and wellness activities that employees can’t enjoy at home.

This could look like team lunches, birthday celebrations and cultural food days. Participation in fundraising activities, like Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea for example, helps to drive morale and a sense of connectedness. As a small business, these activities don’t need to break the budget as there won’t be too many to cater for.

In the post-pandemic workplace, a focus on wellness will be key to success. So, running workplace wellbeing programs that run over several weeks, and involve face to face interaction amongst team members, will be well received. You can also keep things simple, have walking meetings or run your strategy sessions in the park, these are all benefits of being a small business.


A personal touch in leadership is understanding people’s individual needs. This is a great strength of small businesses, so in terms of decision making and planning, consider your team’s individual needs.

Staff aren’t required to conform or adhere to a set of strict company rules, as long as there is consistency and fairness in terms of opportunity. This often means that staff can feel very ‘heard’ and ‘seen’ in a small business.

Strong relationships in small businesses (everyone knows everyone) means you can use a lot of ‘shorthand’ in terms of achieving milestones or deadlines, or supporting each other, socially and from a work perspective.

Create the space

Our research has also identified that people want to come to the office to collaborate and socialise, and these are the priorities over focussed work, as this can’t be achieved at home. Consider ‘unowned’ desks and reduce the number of individually owned settings, in place of more shared, collaborative environments.

Sell, swap, or donate any underutilised furniture or other office items to fund new furniture settings that are more appropriate to new ways of working, post-pandemic.

Lastly, acknowledge that most meetings will now be a blend of virtual and physical and ensure that acoustics in the office provide enough privacy for everyone.