A survey shows firms are doling out incentives to tempt employees back to the office.


Many employees have warmed to flexible working arrangements and have felt little reason to return to the office. So companies are pulling out all the stops to enhance the attractiveness of the workplace, with many dangling incentives to lure employees back.

Nearly half of the organisations have introduced some form of an incentive package to encourage employees to return voluntarily, according to a JLL survey of over 240 senior HR professionals.

Yet even with incentives, companies face an uphill task of bringing employees back. Tech giants Apple and Google, for instance, were made to deal with pushback from employees after announcing plans for mandatory days in the office.

“The challenge for corporates is how to entice employees back to the office with the carrot rather than the stick,” says James Taylor, Head of Work Dynamics Research, Asia Pacific, JLL.

“Part of the answer lies in making sure the corporate workplace provides similar utility as their homes in terms of the quality of life.”

Be it tangible perks, or flexible arrangements, these five incentives are being implemented to entice more employees back and ease their transition to hybrid working.

Improved catering offering, free meals and drinks in the office have emerged as one of the more commonly used perks offered to employees.

Late last year, U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs provided free breakfast, lunch, and gelato ice cream for returning employees — on top of complimentary coffee and an “out of hours” meal stipend.

But employees are expecting even more from the office. Beyond free access to food, up to 43% of employees also want fresh, healthy food options on-site, according to JLL’s Workforce Preferences Barometer.

Health and wellbeing amenities
Another popular employee incentive is the availability of health and wellbeing offerings such as gyms within the office, or discounts and partnerships with amenities near the office.

Up to 27% of employees surveyed by JLL consider the latter option effective in improving the quality of life in the workplace. The pandemic brought a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing in the workplace, Taylor says.

One company investing big in amenities within the workplace is U.S. retail giant Walmart. Its new campus in Arkansas features a fitness center, a childcare facility and three pools among a suite of other facilities that prioritize employee health and wellbeing.

Free or subsidized transportation options
Offering transportation options to reduce the hassle and ease the burden for employees, in terms of costs, time, and flexibility, is another incentive that may encourage them to head back to the office.

According to JLL’s Workforce Preferences Barometer, around 43% of employees would appreciate subsidised travel to the office to offset rising costs associated with a day’s commute.

In the UK, for instance, employees at professional services firm PwC were given a one-off £1,000 incentive last year to cover commuting expenses as they transitioned to a hybrid working environment with mandatory days in the office.

Quality of fit-out in the office
With employees’ expectations of the office shifting, organisations must also ensure the quality and type of office fit-out are suited for the hybrid workplace.

More than half of the HR leaders surveyed by JLL say they plan to refit or redesign their office space in the coming 12 months to align with employees’ preferences.

“Employees do not miss sitting at their desks from 9 to 5. What they miss is the social side of the office and in-person collaboration,” says Taylor. “The fit-out of the workspace should be able to support collaboration, face-to-face meetings, and spark creativity and innovation.”

Access to flexible work facilities
The trend of working from flexible-work locations other than the office or home, also known as third places, is gathering steam. Close to 40% of employees work from third places such as cafés and coworking facilities on a weekly basis, JLL data shows.

Companies offering access to third places allow employees to enjoy a highly flexible working environment, which is key to the hybrid workplace, Taylor says.

“Implementing changes to the workplace and offering incentives that cater for flexible schedules will not only go a long way toward attracting staff back to offices voluntarily, but also help greatly in the war for talent,” says Taylor.