Our relationship with the office has changed fundamentally since Q1 2020. Prior to March 2020 we learnt together, we collaborated together, we socialised together, and we did that day-to-day stuff. We then had a very abrupt separation and for the vast majority of corporate workers we’ve not really seen a great deal of each other. The time has come to start thinking about how we can rekindle that relationship and how it can be mutually beneficial to all parties.
WORKPLACE, WE MISSED YOU
As we return to our offices in some shape or form but we know that to truly make this relationship work there will need to be some changes. There has been much written on workplace design and its use as a tool to attract and retain talent but here, I want to focus on the ‘workplace experience’.
Over the past few years, we have heard the term ‘workplace experience’ pop up in conversation more and more; what does it mean, who is responsible for it and how important is it?
Over the last 10 years we have seen a significant change in the design of workplaces. Traditional desks are being drawn down and replaced with collaboration zones, touch-down spaces and amenities that do more than just provide a place to eat and drink. This ‘trend’ will continue post-pandemic and more will be done to integrate the digital and physical workplaces.
However, your workplace experience is far more than the digital and physical aspects. It needs to connect with the employee on a human level too. Your workplace needs to be centred around employees wants and needs. Just because the workplace looks great, and you have the latest digital technology, it isn’t a guarantee for a positive experience.
FIND THE ELUSIVE WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE
You need to have the right culture, the right processes, and policies in place for your employees to really get the most out of their environment. Look at the experience you would expect when going to a restaurant, where the eating element is only one component of the experience; the welcome, ambience, décor and service all add or detract from the overall experience. Why should your workplace not take on this approach and provide a similar experience?
The pandemic has led to a meteoric shift in the way we work and our relationship with the physical workplace has changed. There have been noticeable benefits from working remotely; 80 per cent of respondents to a poll cited the advantages of an improved work/life balance and reduced commuting so it’s important to listen to the data when making decisions.
As we start the return to office it will also allow us to reset our offerings and better define how colleagues use and interact with their workplace. Industry data published by the BBC suggests the majority of corporate employees will look to frequent the office two to three days a week with the remaining time spent working from home or third spaces. Digital tools will be key to seamlessly traverse the spaces and maintain productivity and engagement.
When colleagues attend the office, they need to ensure they have access to the right spaces, the right technology, the right resources, and the right people. They will want spaces to not only be functional, but also inspiring and consider their mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, 41 per cent of poll respondents cited that they are likely to be more productive and happier in their workplace if they are better supported from a wellbeing perspective. They also want to know that basics are done brilliantly (cleaning, building access, wayfinding, catering etc.) so they can focus on being productive and delivering against the task in hand.
KEEP THE SPARK ALIGHT
Creating the right experience is a team effort; it is not just the responsibility of the workplace professionals. It needs your people, real estate, finance, communications and technology teams but most importantly it needs the voice of the colleague to be front and centre to ensure they are really being heard. But it doesn’t stop there; the workplace experience will evolve and the constant feedback and input from colleagues will be crucial in ensuring the journey is one that works for both parties. A positive workplace experience does not just happen; you cannot leave it to chance. It needs to be curated and tailored to each organisation, it needs people to believe in it and it needs leaders to invest in it mentally and financially. But with the right experience, and a bit of effort, you can rekindle the desire for the workplace and have highly engaged employees – which will only have positive outcomes for your business.