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Companies are pulling out all the stops to lure employees back to the office. But they’re missing the biggest draw

April 13, 2022, 9:59 PM UTC

The struggle to get employees back to the office continues, and tech companies have resorted to sweetening the sour taste of commuting to work with A-list concerts, office swag, and other perks

Like putting vegetables in their brownies, companies with large budgets are resorting to offering rewards or straight-up bribery to make a mandate to the office more palatable. As The New York Times reported, the incentives ranged from Microsoft throwing a party with local music, appreciation events, and wine tasting classes to Qualcomm handing out free food and giving fitness classes to workers in the office.

At Clions, employees were encouraged to move their desks, facing the blooming cherry trees. The theory behind it is that work will feel like home. And if employees squint their eyes enough and keep their desks turned to the window, it’ll almost feel like workers aren’t in the office at all. 

The throughline of all the suped-up parties is employers offering free food or complimentary classes. Employees that go to work are treated like they’ve earned a pizza party in first grade, and the only punishment for those that don’t is the fear of missing out.

But it’s likely the employers who are missing something.

Why workers come back

The number one reason that workers come back is much simpler. A LinkedIn poll conducted by Fortune surveyed 2,800 workers, and their number one motivation to return to the office (at 36%) was socializing with colleagues.

Better work and learning options was the second top motivation (at 21%), and parties and free food came in at a measly 5%. 

Most responded, however, that they were not going to return to the office at all (38%). And some individuals in the comments expressed that they are only going back to work because their employer is requiring them to.

Indeed, many of the same tech companies throwing massive parties are also the ones instituting schedules that mandate hybrid work. Google is enforcing a three times a week in-office policy, but while workers are there, they’ll be treated to a Lizzo concert. In light of the survey results, the lavish musical events are a way to cushion the blow of a strict return-to-work order.

Where it’s optional, and when employees do want to return, it’s simply to see their new and old friends.And the lure of office parties is further undermined by the current rumblings of another surge of COVID cases that potentially ruin the allure of the office. Because while a Lizzo concert might be fun, getting COVID from co-workers generally doesn’t make you want to return to the office.

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