Six ways to return to the office by Cultura

As a nonprofit, San Diego Regional EDC is supported by investment from nearly 200 private organizations, companies, and public agencies. With their support, EDC provides direct services to help companies grow and thrive in San Diego by leading initiatives to enhance the region’s growth and prosperity.

On the heels of the pandemic, many employers have transitioned back to in-office or hybrid operations. And one thing is clear—there is no one definitive way to bring people ‘back to work.’

This week, we sat down with Anne Benge and Annie Cook, senior executives at EDC investor and design and furnishing company Cultura to understand how employers can promote their workforce’s successful transition back to the office. Check out Cultura’s six essential criteria for your Return to Office strategy.

Tell us about Cultura and its commitment to #lovewhereyouwork

Cultura’s mission is to create places where people love to work. We cultivate discussions around a client’s culture then design and furnish their space to reflect it. After three years of working with more than 300 companies, we have observed companies with successful Return to Office strategies do the following six things. Company size is irrelevant as these steps apply to companies from three to 140,000 employees. Failure to do each of these will result in a subpar return to the office.

Six required steps to ensure a successful return to office:

  1. Lead by Example
    Leadership, at all levels, must be present in the office to lead by example. This means everyone, not just the top executives. By demonstrating a shared commitment to the return, leaders at all levels can help to establish a culture of accountability, motivate employees, and drive success for the company.
  1. Listen
    Taking the time to listen to everyone is essential since returning to the office can be perceived as a loss of a benefit, similar to eliminating health insurance, and affects people differently in ways.
  1. Embrace the Start + Stop
    It is normal to begin a transition back to the office only to have it stop. There can be outbreaks, office relocations, and resignations; some may only return to work with masks while others may refuse to come back if masks are required. It’s a challenging and unpredictable journey that requires perseverance and resilience.
  1. Coaching + Management
    The philosophy of “I trust you until I don’t” can change abruptly, and not everyone is equipped to handle conflict and resolution when trust is breached. Managing remote work, bringing people back to the office that are against it, and questioning work ethic all come into play. You have to address what the new rules are and how are you managing them.
  1. Hidden Influencers
    In every organization, there are change agents who are not in leadership or management roles and may not necessarily lead people, yet are perceived as if they know “what’s going on” and are sought out for “real” answers. Engaging this group in your return is crucial, as they hold great influence and will bring more than 50 percent of the individuals with them.
  1. Space Matters
    Your office performance is a hugely important tool you should use to support a positive internal culture. Temperature, ergonomics, snacks, amenities, and social merriment all matter. Pizza and beer will not bring them back alone—you have to have it all.

If your return has stalled, look to these six things to identify where the breakdown may be. They are your keys to unlocking success.

Previous investor spotlight: Cultura: Women’s History Month

Learn more:

Instagram: @wearecultura

Read more about EDC’s investors in our investor spotlight blog series. Or, join Cultura by becoming a member of EDC.

Interested in publishing an investor spotlight? Contact our team:

Liz Muthoni
Liz Muthoni

Coordinator, Economic Development