RTO: Making the Office a Magnet Rather than a Mandate

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Modern workplaces are not what they used to be; many organizations have transitioned from five days a week in the office to at least a hybrid schedule, if not entirely remote. Still, despite this persistent trend, there’s been more than a few executives pushing for a return to office (RTO) mandate in order to facilitate more creativity, innovative problem solving, and collaboration.

These RTO mandates have contributed to the ongoing debate over whether remote work or in-person is better for any given organization. Some studies may indicate that in-person work has benefits, allowing more real-time collaboration and improved creativity while others show that remote work can be just as, if not more productive and collaborative as sharing an office space. Regardless of the available evidence, it’s important to recognize one fundamental truth: there’s no putting the genie of remote work back in the bottle now that it’s been unleashed.

There is no one size fits all solution to designing an office space.  The optimal work environment depends on the type of work and the personalities of the workers.  However, if it’s unlikely that remote work is disappearing any time soon, what can organizations do to make use of their office space?

RTO Mandates Help Grab Headlines, but Don’t Capture Hearts

It’s important to acknowledge that businesses with offices have a vested interest in utilizing that space, because it’s an expense that’s fixed, tying up resources that, if unused, has a negative ROI. It’s understandable in this context for business leaders to want to push workers to use the space they paid for, because at least then there’s a return on their investment. While this concern is understandable, it overlooks a key factor in getting employees back to the office: employees.

Mandating RTO to realize an ROI on an office space investment is something that employees understand just as much as management. When these mandates are handed down, the intent may be to take advantage of in-person collaboration, boost creativity, and foster a more connected culture, but what employees hear is that ROI is more important than their wellbeing. This misunderstanding may lead to more bodies swiping into the office, but it will also increase the rate of disengagement workers will experience, because their hearts and minds are still set on remote work.

Turning the Office into an Employee Magnet

While winning the hearts and minds of employees is a harder task to accomplish than simply mandating they show up to work, it’s possible to do if businesses invest in making the office a space employees want to come to.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that leaders need to invest in a space like Google has for its campuses; instead, business leaders can focus on providing tools that can make it easier and more productive to work in the office. These tools can fall into three broad categories:


Working remotely comes with a lot of perks, and one of the biggest has to do with what the employees feel is control over their network connection. Offices of the past have too often sought to minimize their investment in network assessments, endpoints, and other tools that provide the wireless connection necessary to do many of the jobs in a modern organization.

Network latency, inconsistent coverage, and other issues make it harder to use many of the wireless tools that the modern workplace needs to be successful, and since employees are often measured against their ability to perform, they will naturally go where the connection is. If leaders don’t invest in optimizing their office networks to provide fast, consistent connection across all available devices, then they’re setting themselves up for a struggle to get employees to RTO.


Talent is one of the key drivers of success at an organization and in the past, teams have been limited in their recruitment efforts to the immediate, surrounding communities. With hybrid and remote work, it’s become a lot easier to expand the search for talent to anywhere in the world, and that’s been a boon for organizations who can now work with someone they couldn’t have before due to geographic differences.

However, this benefit to companies has been a bit of a double-edged sword, because it makes it even harder to enforce a RTO mandate when some employees are allowed to work remotely and others have to be in office. If business leaders want to attract talent to the office while still maintaining their access to diverse talent through remote work, it becomes critical to make the experience of working with a hybrid team as seamless as possible.

Design collaboration spaces to be responsive to the composition of the team so employees can work together regardless of their being remote or in person. This will require a combination of a consistent network connection and robust collaboration platforms, but it also means that organizations need to be mindful of how they design teams and work functions so that employees that work in person and remotely can feel just as connected as if they were all in the same room.


With the rise of remote work, there’s been a proliferation of collaboration tools that have allowed teams to work together from anywhere in the world, and with that kind of power comes a perfectly reasonable question from employees: why come back to the office?

Business leaders have to consider ways of providing the same comfort and ease that remote work offers in the workplace if they want to attract their employees back to the office. Fortunately, many of the leaders in the collaboration space have taken note of this and have developed tools to do just that.

Recently, Cisco’s announcements at its WebexOne conference have detailed how it’s helping to create a more collaborative modern workplace by leveraging the power of generative AI, creating video conferencing tools that provide a consistent and responsive experience, and a whole lot more. In addition to video conferencing equipment, there’s increased interest in tools that give employees a say in how they work within a space, such as desk booking systems and scheduling tools that allow teams to see who’s in the office so they can maximize the value of their time in-person to achieve their goals.

AI, IoT, and Boosting Employee Engagement

AI has been a hot topic for 2023, and it’s unlikely to change in 2024. Cisco has already been working on how to leverage AI tools to boost the effectiveness of collaboration tools and that’s going to change the way many organizations think about what it means to be a modern workplace. However, aside from AI, there have been many different tools that organizations are using to create a more attractive workplace to be a magnet for employees.

One of the most promising of these includes Internet of Things (IoT) tools that allow workplaces to automatically adjust to maximize employee engagement. While it may not be talked about as widely as AI, using IoT sensors in collaborative workspaces can give business leaders access to a treasure trove of data on how to make those spaces more attractive. IoT sensors can collect information on things like temperature changes, air quality, noise, lighting, and even how many “ghost meetings” – or times when a space is booked but no one shows up – occur throughout the day. After evaluating the data on these points, it’s possible to leverage additional IoT tools to automatically adjust the conditions within the space to maximize the comfort and efficacy of the teams working within it.

Creating a Modern Workplace that Attracts Employees

What constitutes a “modern” office space is constantly changing, and in an age where business leaders are looking to leverage the value of in-person collaboration to boost the effectiveness of their teams, it’s critical that leaders take the shifting definition into consideration when trying to get employees to return to in-person work.

If business leaders want to get employees back into the office and fully engaged, then the best way they can achieve that is by making the office a place that employees want to return to. There are many ways to achieve this, but in the context of hybrid schedules, technology will play a critical role in making it possible for teams to work together seamlessly, regardless of whether they’re in office or remote. Leaders must think about how they can organize office space to justify the time and resources that many employees invest in commuting, because the ability to do that will differentiate those companies who can successfully manage a RTO initiative from those whose employees may be physically present, but completely disengaged from the mission of their work.

The process of turning office space into a magnet for employees can be complicated, but with the right partner, it can be a whole lot easier than it seems. Hammer Tech has years of experience working with organizations to ensure they have the latest technology and training to maximize value to their team. Contact us if you want to find out more.