The concept of "Return to Office" (RTO) emerged as a promise of workplace normalcy, a term familiar to many and indicative of the aspiration to regain a sense of routine and camaraderie. Yet, as sentiments and workplace dynamics evolve, our language should reflect this change. It’s time to embrace the notion of “In-Office Experiences.”
The psychology of phrasing
The term "returning" signifies a sense of coming back together, of reuniting, which can be comforting to some. Simultaneously, there's a growing realization that the post-pandemic work environment offers new opportunities for reshaping and reimagining the workplace. Introducing the term "In-Office Experiences" can complement our understanding and capture these opportunities more holistically.
In a post-pandemic world, "In-Office Experiences" can encapsulate the diverse and evolving nature of the workplace.
Choice of language isn't just semantics; it's a form of "choice architecture," a concept recognized by behavioral psychologists to significantly influence decision-making. While "Return to Office" speaks to our shared experiences and the familiarity of the past, "In-Office Experiences" extends an invitation to a broader horizon, emphasizing the rich array of workplace interactions available today.
By strategically shaping this "choice environment," companies can offer employees avenues that resonate with both their personal and professional aspirations, thus enhancing overall workplace engagement and satisfaction.
Implications for workplace teams
The shift toward creating in-office experiences goes beyond mere policy changes; it directly impacts how workplace teams design and utilize the office space.
Creating in-office experiences isn't just about having a well-furnished workspace but about crafting zones within the office that serve specific purposes.
Think tinker spaces that encourage creativity, wellness areas to rest and recharge, and recreational pockets for socialization.
Spatial design also involves using visual cues to help guide employees toward making choices that enhance their workday. For example, open areas near windows can be designed as collaborative spaces to benefit from natural light, while secluded corners can offer quietude for focused work.
The use of technology can further augment these experiences.Interactive screens for brainstorming, high-quality video conferencing facilities for connecting with remote teammates, and even simple things like app-controlled lighting can make a significant difference. These elements not only add to the immediate experience but also show a commitment to innovation and employee comfort.
Consideration should be given to how the workspace appeals to the senses.Natural light, color schemes, and even scents can play a role in employee well-being and productivity. For example, natural tones can create a calming environment, while vibrant colors may stimulate creativity.
Above all, flexibility is key.The space should be able to adapt to different kinds of work and different team dynamics. Modular furniture, writable walls, and mobile dividers can make it easier to reshape the space as needs evolve.
As we take a more experiential approach to office life, it may become necessary to introduce new roles within the workplace team.'Experience Curators' could take responsibility for ensuring that the office remains adaptive and responsive to employees' needs, from implementing real-time feedback systems to coordinating experience-focused events.
Companies can move toward a future where the workplace is not just a location but an ecosystem of experiences.
By embracing these design principles and potentially introducing new roles focused on experience, companies can move toward a future where the workplace is not just a location but an ecosystem of experiences that actively contribute to employee well-being and productivity.
The future is in-office experience
As we broaden our perspective beyond the familiar RTO terminology, we're embracing a more holistic view of work. It’s about evolving alongside the 'new normal' that places human experience at its core
Word choice matters. So let’s not just change our vocabulary; let's transform our work environments and mindsets for the better.
After all, it’s not just about the work, it’s about human beings who perform the work. And we owe to them to ensure they work in an environment that is safe, healthy and nurturing.