- Digital fatigue is a common issue among employees that can have costly effects, from low productivity to high turnover.
- Physical experiences are an effective antidote to digital overload because they fulfill our basic human needs for social connections and analog stimuli.
- The office is an excellent tool to facilitate in-person experiences that will benefit your employees and organization.
Humans are not software
The technology that makes remote work possible is a vital asset for companies today, but it comes with significant challenges.
- Digital fatigue affects 49% of workers and can lead to stagnation and burnout.
- 54% of workers feel that it’s more difficult to perform their jobs at the same level remotely as they do in the office.
- A sense of community is more difficult to maintain within a predominantly remote workforce, with 90% of executives reporting that culture and connection are lacking for their remote workers.
For 300,000 years, Homo sapiens have evolved to thrive in physical environments. It’s understandable that we’ve hit some snags during this digital transformation of the workplace.
“We are not some piece of software or an abstract concept,” says David Sax, author of The Future is Analog: How to Create a More Human World. “We are biological, physical creatures with bodies that live in a physical world that has senses and smells, and our body responds to that. Our mind responds to that in a way we can’t substitute with simulations. We can’t build a future around a technology that replaces what we as humans need, nor should we want to.”
The office makes us more … human?
With more than 60% of employees expecting companies to offer flexible remote work options, the digital workplace is here to stay. So, what’s the solution to technology burnout and fracturing culture?
The workplace caters to humans' inherent need for sensory stimulation and social interaction, making it the perfect tool to combat digital fatigue, rebuild culture and personal connections, and invigorate your workforce.
“There's just something special about intentionally being together – building culture, building rapport, breaking bread together. It matters,” Darren Murph, the former Head of Remote at GitLab, says. “And spaces can be hallowed ground for bringing people together for really, really vital moments that are impactful for them in their personal life as well as catalyzing a lot of great work after they go their separate ways.”
Having a plan is essential when you bring employees into the office. Consider the hurdles workers face when coming into the office versus working remotely. There’s the obvious commute but also lesser-acknowledged challenges such as marginalized employees feeling like they can't bring their true selves into the workplace.
It takes more time, money, and effort to show up, and employees should be rewarded with an experience that grows their skills, makes their jobs easier, builds relationships, and increases trust in the organization.
You must create intentional in-office experiences to get the most out of your physical space.
Creating intentional in-office experiences
Intentional experiences require a purpose. Are you creating an event for socialization and building weak ties? Do you want to support creative brainstorming and collaboration? Whatever the goal, be authentic and transparent, and communicate the intention to your employees. This will help align their focus and efforts and make your in-office experience more successful.
This transparency and communication is also vital to establishing authenticity and trust. “Authenticity is when the client or customer is able to feel you are going the extra mile and are genuinely doing what you can to offer that great experience,” Max Behesht, hospitality expert, says.
“There is no ‘perfect.’ By making people feel you are doing your best—as imperfect as it is—you can get away without being perfect, but still provide a truly wonderful experience.” Behesht references clients and customers, but the same concept applies to employees.
Ideas for in-office experiences
Below are a few ideas to inspire your in-office experience planning. Be sure to collect employee feedback after your events to learn how you can improve future offerings.
Lunch and learn sessions
Eating together is one of the most ancient social practices among humans, and it remains one of the most effective for deepening trust and relationships. Research from the University of Oxford shows that "communal eating increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing, and enhances one's sense of contentedness and embedding within the community."
This social experience is unique to the physical world, so it’s an excellent way to balance digital overload. To increase the benefits of this in-person experience, use it as a learning opportunity. Consider bringing in experts to talk about industry topics, encourage employee-led workshops for skill sharing, or share the company’s goals to rebuild culture and break through digital fatigue through recurring events like this.
Mentorship programs help bridge generation gaps in the office, enhance personal relationships, and give less experienced workers the confidence and skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
Mentorship opportunities have proven to be an important resource for Gen Z workers, and they're great options for in-office experiences on a smaller scale. Rather than having everyone come to the office on a particular day, mentors and mentees can schedule in-person events at their convenience.
Volunteering has proven mental health benefits, from stress reduction to increased happiness, which makes it an excellent antidote to digital fatigue. Getting involved in the local community also creates opportunities to strengthen bonds between coworkers while bringing company values to life.
You can use the office to host volunteer fairs where local nonprofits can talk to team members about their volunteer needs and opportunities, or organize a charity drive and have employees come to the office to create care packages from the donated items. However you choose to leverage the office for community outreach, employees will be rewarded with meaningful experiences and a deeper connection to your company culture.