Unique Incentives to Get Employees Back to Work - two people walking on city sidewalk with backpacks

Unique Incentives to Get Employees Back to Work

Amelia Wilcox
August 12, 2021
October 9, 2022

Unemployed workers are getting unemployment checks that are bigger than their pay stubs were. Now, HR leaders are facing a new challenge—getting employees back to work.

In June 2021, 9.5 million Americans were unemployed, yet 10.1 million jobs were available.

This is unprecedented!  Other companies are struggling to get their current employees to return to in-person work. Some are struggling to keep employees due to other companies offering higher wages and more benefits.

You can do more (for less cash) by going beyond employee benefits.  

How do we get employees back to work?

Companies are getting employees back to work by addressing:

  • COVID concerns
  • Child care
  • Work-life balance
  • Company culture and morale
  • Overall employee mental health

Let's face it—getting employees to return to work (and the office) is an emotional matter.

Employers run the risk of driving employees away by forcing them to return to the office.

We are faced with the challenge of keeping productivity and morale high while simultaneously keeping employees happy.

39% of employees say that they'd seriously consider quitting if they cannot work at least part of the time remotely. Returning to the office is a real threat—for employers and employees alike.

Addressing these areas will make your company more attractive to your current employees and recruits.  

Address Employee Return-to-Work Fears

Let's walk through the major fears surrounding the return to work and how to address them (whether you return to in-person work or not).


Ah, yes. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still a factor here.

Do you know how your employees really feel about returning to work? What about vaccine concerns and conflicts? Do your employees want to return to the office or not?  With cases skyrocketing in Texas and Florida, keep in mind that COVID cases are likely to rise again as we head into the fall and winter. And the reality is this: most people will want to keep working from home.

Think about what concerns your leadership team has about remote work. Is it company culture? Productivity? Morale? We'll touch on those some more. Keep in mind that in-person work isn't the only solution to these problems.

Child Care

Offering childcare options and flexibility may help bring more white-collar and knowledge workers back on the job.

1/3 of American workers have a child under 14 at home. Here are some of the childcare options they are expecting:

  • Full-time remote work
  • Fewer work hours
  • Flexible work hours
  • More PTO
  • Backup childcare (almost 20% of employers provide it)
  • Subsidized childcare programs
  • Referral services for childcare providers

At Nivati, most of our employees are parents of young children. We allow employees to work anywhere, anytime—because that's what parents need!

If your company doesn't have extra cash to fund these benefits, no worries. Read on...

Work-Life Balance

While there have been debates about work-from-home productivity, most agree that rates of burnout and poor work-life balance have increased over time. 52% of workers feel burnt out—almost 10% more than before the pandemic.

Working from home makes stepping away from work harder but commuting eats up precious time.

Address work-life balance issues (for remote or in-person teams) by:

  • Encouraging employees to turn notifications off outside work hours (and do it yourself!)
  • Incentivizing employees to take time off (some companies are even giving monetary bonuses for taking PTO)
  • Talking about mental health and stress management (and sharing how you've managed your mental health)
  • Setting clear expectations for work hours, productivity, and reaching goals
  • Giving employees tools they need to unwind and destress with their families (like an employee mental health program or EAP)

Company Culture and Morale

Companies that nurture company culture have greater employee engagement, better morale, and less employee isolation. Culture can be enhanced in many ways without bringing employees back to work:

  • Team-building activities
  • Get-to-know-you questions at staff meetings
  • Exercising together
  • Offering more benefits
  • Encouraging employees to take PTO
  • Talking about mental health (our favorite!)
  • Creating a culture club or team that helps direct engagement and morale efforts

When it comes to deciding whether to return to the office, consider how the transition may negatively impact your workforce. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  

Many companies are starting with a slow transition to in-person work. Employees may come in one day a week and work four days at home.

It comes down to what is best for your business and employees.

Now—onto what ties all of these ideas together.

What are the best companies doing to attract new employees?

The gist? Mental health and wellness programs.

Poor mental health is the new pandemic. Every year, 60% of employees report symptoms of a mental health condition.

Companies that address mental health at work have better cultures, higher productivity, and better employee retention.

By talking about mental health at work, companies can create a community despite the distance. Talking about mental health and bringing your whole self to work provides employees with more than just a job—and companies more than just workers.

When we talk about mental health, we open the door to healing.

Putting mental health first is a game-changer. Just ask companies like Google, Homie, and HubSpot.

Providing higher wages for white-collar jobs and having a culture that prioritizes mental health will attract new workers.

For more ideas on prioritizing mental health at work, check out the Nivati Manager Training Handbook.

Beyond Just Benefits

The key is to work on building company culture remotely. Putting mental health first is a great way to do that! Tacking on benefits may help, but they won't go to the core of the issue.

Companies are creating support groups, peer support programs, and mental health dialogues to help fight the stigma and provide employees the support they need. Not only does this help coworkers connect—but it also helps them meet their social, mental, and emotional needs.

Modern EAPs and wellness programs are a great way to get the ball rolling at your organization. They offer benefits like employee counseling, meditation sessions, fitness classes, life coaching, and so much more.

For more on finding the right EAP for your company, check out this guide to finding an EAP and this article on EAP cost vs. value.

Stop stacking benefits. Start being well. Set a Nivati demo


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Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement. Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.