May 6, 2021

Not having an RTO environmental design strategy is a giant missed opportunity for B2B giants (and 5 steps to create your own)

Matt Jeffries
Positive businesswoman’s portrait with protective face mask at work

The notion of returning to the workplace may conjure up memories of the first day of school—anxiety, nerves, excitement.

With so many gearing up to re-enter the workplace where they spend one-third of their lives, every employer should be considering how to welcome employees back with a sense of gratitude and celebration.

This moment represents a significant opportunity to capture attention and deliver a message that truly connects.

Going all in to welcome back your workforce, in even the smallest ways, will help to drive excitement not only for the physical space, but also for your brand’s vision, pride and sense of commitment to each one of your employees.

But how? What should you say? And where should these moments occur?

Create a meaningful experience

At treetree, we believe you can successfully create unique and meaningful branded experiences in any type of environment.

That’s why your return-to-office (RTO) strategy needs to be more than just a balloon archway and a welcome back email.

Instead of one specialized announcement, think about creating a journey of smaller moments. These individual touchpoints can work together to define, amplify and reinforce a larger brand experience.


If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your RTO strategy—or if you’re just now realizing you need one—consider these five topics with your leadership team:

  • What are the breadcrumbs you can leave employees? From a welcome email to a pop-up swag shop, nothing is off the table yet. Dream big and blue-sky.
  • What form or delivery method will these moments take on? Will you need to create videos? Print and mail custom postcards?
  • What reaction are you seeking? Inspiration? Excitement? Celebration? Gratitude?
  • How can your RTO strategy amplify your company’s mission, vision and values without sounding trite or self-serving?
  • What do you want the result to be, and how will you know you achieved it? Is there a big wow moment? Will you use a survey to invite feedback on the experience?

Craft a budget friendly RTO journey for employees

You can welcome your team into your company’s next normal without breaking the bank; many of our favorite recommendations are low cost yet high impact. Let’s look at a possible cadence of experiences to lead your employees through a journey back to the office.

Start at home

You have the power to help mentally prepare employees to return at their own pace and get them excited to do so. A recent McKinsey study found that “even high-level communication about post-COVID-19 working arrangements boosts employee well-being and productivity.” In addition to your logistical communications, send all employees a small acknowledgement of gratitude that welcomes them back about one week before their return to the office.

Some ideas include sending a:

  • Handwritten, personalized note from a leader in the company talking about the employee’s contribution to the organization’s success
  • Coupon for a free coffee or lunch at your company café or favorite local spot
  • Set of disposable AR goggles that share a rally video or heartfelt message from leadership. These goggles could also travel with the employee to the office where they can use them to discover hidden welcoming moments throughout the journey to their station

Rethink the arrival experience

Using simple modern tech and low-cost yet high-impact applications, you can enrich the experience at the point of entry. This is a great way to message your company vision, values or mission and establish a connection with employees in their first few steps back in the office. Here are several suggestions to consider:

  • If your employee parking has light post banners, replace them with temporary banners with welcome messaging
  • Place temporary freestanding banners in key areas with welcome back messaging
  • Hang graphics on exterior faces of buildings to add to a sense of arrival
  • Don’t forget other senses: pump upbeat music in garages or parking lots to build energy and anticipation
  • Use Bluetooth beacons to push a welcome message to employees’ mobile devices when they are within range of the office
  • If space allows, consider a lobby experience, such as a pop-up shop with free branded swag
  • Station leadership at entry points to personally welcome employees back

Add enhancements to main pathways

Think beyond the entry to extend the feeling of welcome throughout the space. Hallways, bathroom mirrors and monitors all represent prime real estate for messaging. Specifically, you could consider:

  • Adding brief, heartfelt messages in key areas, such as stairwells and elevator lobbies
  • Adding vinyl messaging to stairway risers to communicate messages in an unexpected place
  • Updating monitors to communicate current policies and procedures, a welcome message from the CEO and new safety protocols
  • Gamifying the experience by hiding QR codes with challenges for small prizes

Onboard all over again

Welcoming employees back to their workstations goes beyond branded masks and hand sanitizer.

  • Place a handwritten note from the director of each department on employees’ stations
  • Display encouraging messaging on screensavers and/or throughout wayfinding
  • To help alleviate uncertainty, display all new protocols, schedules and processes on each employee’s desk and in key areas such as water coolers, kitchens, staff rooms and cafeterias

Go above and beyond

Consider an RTO rally, a monthly food truck fest or permanent improvements to benefits—all of which you can announce at a kickoff celebration.

  • Consider kicking off the week with an outdoor or virtual rally or town hall
  • Arrange for a work-sponsored food truck lunch to create a feeling of celebration
  • Research, implement and communicate health and wellness resources such as fitness classes, a mental health stipend or expanded benefits to ensure employees continue to receive the support they need
  • Explore rearranging workspaces to create intimate breakout areas where groups of two or three can meet

Does your RTO plan need some creative firepower?

Big moments—like returning to the office after more than a year working remotely—deserve just as much internal fanfare as an external launch does.

And when it comes to managing change, an internal campaign can not only communicate a message, but it can also activate ambassadors, enhance adoption and accelerate progress.

That’s why treetree helps our clients share their story through important moments, engagements and spaces. From fun desk drops to robust communication plans to pop-up experiences, we understand how to rally and unify B2B organizations as they march toward growth.

Find out how we can help with your next experience.