When the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago, tech companies were some of the first to close down offices in an effort to stop the spread. What started as a short-term solution became the new normal as employees who left behind framed pictures and office sweaters adjusted to working from home. New variants and rising cases made it almost impossible to predict an appropriate return-to-office timeline, and companies announced reopening schedules, only to have to change plans.
Now, however, the time seems to have arrived for office returns. In the past few weeks alone, tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Meta have announced official back-to-work plans, and opened the doors to offices across the country. On February 28th, Microsoft opened the entirety of its Washington state offices, including its Redmond campus headquarters, and Google announced employees in Seattle and the Bay Area are expected to return on a hybrid schedule starting April 4th. Although there’s sure to be flexibility for those who need to relocate, one thing is clear: The office is back.
At the heart of this decision is the hope to foster collaboration and connection that just isn’t possible over Zoom. Alongside happy hours and networking opportunities, companies are taking the time to think about the elements that make a meaningful office experience. While amenities have long been associated with working in tech, employee’s priorities have certainly shifted. Leaders must now reflect on the perks employees really want and need.
For many of these companies, making the office an enjoyable place to be involves supporting employee well-being. From bringing in healthy food and drink options to offering a variety of wellness incentives, there’s a new focus on what can be done to help employees feel their best. As offices begin to open, offering healthy, high-quality meals, working with local brands to feature pop-ups, encouraging visits to onsite wellness centers, and offering reimbursement for everything from yoga classes to gym memberships are becoming the norm.
If the past two years have taught companies anything, it’s just how important employee health and wellness really is. Employees who nourish their physical and mental health are not only more productive, but feel more energized, balanced, and engaged. As more companies in and outside of the tech industry announce return-to-office plans, offering healthy options and supporting overall well-being is sure to be a focal point. After all, a healthy employee is a happy employee.