Dr. Alexandra Samuel has written a thougthful piece for the Wall Street Journal titled, "How Bosses Can Lure Remote Workers Back to the Office." According to Samuel, tather than insisting that people return and risking the loss of many talented employees, managers should focus on making it attractive to come back to the office. She argues that employees need to understand the purpose of coming into the building, rather than continuing to work from home. Here's an excerpt:
Remind people of the creative, collaborative and collegial benefits of time on site. That may mean reorganizing their work so that you shift people away from tasks that are best done solo (like writing or data analysis) and toward work that really thrives on in-person collaboration (like brainstorming or strategic planning).
As much as possible, give priority to projects that involve people working closely together. This is a great time to bring forward a neglected project that requires a lot of creativity and intellectual engagement, and is likely to be fun and engaging for your team...
Offer a range of spaces that encourage conversation, gathering and collegiality: Not just enclosed boardrooms for 20 but small meeting rooms for two to six people, conversation clusters made up of a few easy chairs or sofas, cafe tables with two or three chairs, and big communal tables where people can perch and chat if they need to check email or take care of a little work in between meetings. (After all, there’s no point in sequestering people in solitary cubicles once they’ve come into the office: For quiet, focused work, it makes more sense to spend the day working remotely.)
I think Samuel makes a very important point here. Asking people to return to the office simply to work alone at their cubicle makes little sense. On the other hand, employees will see the value of in-person interaction if the work requires intense collaboration, interpersonal communication, and group problem solving. Giving them a challenge that is stimulating will also be enticing. Making sure they have some autonomy with regard to how to solve the problem you put in front of them is very important too.