Employees have new behaviors and working patterns. As more companies adopt a hybrid work model, the workplace now needs to serve as a destination to enhance employee experience.
But how do you measure that?
What is important to employees returning to the workplace?
A survey by Microsoft shows that over half of employees consider the overall environment of their workplace a key factor in their employment. For workplace leaders, that means creating a positive and nurturing space is a critical part of a successful return to the office. This comes down to having a firm understanding of what employees need and designing spaces that complement those requirements.
Hybrid work has blurred the line between home and office, personal and professional. With that combination comes the desire in employees to manage their own workload and be in control of how they complete their work. Offices need to be reimagined as pieces of a comprehensive work network; a destination that enhances the overall experience of employees.
According to Forbes, “The office environment should aim to connect employees’ personal and professional lives and support and improve their well-being.”
That means two things for the office.
Employees have different working styles, and the kind of work they do will vary between projects and project stages. Matching that dynamic need with well-designed spaces that provide room for collaboration and concentration will make the office a destination employees want to be in.
It’s all about giving employees flexibility and agency. Research done by McKinsey found that the most resilient companies during the first year of the pandemic deployed cross-siloed teams that were empowered to make impact-driven decisions. A fact that benefited the overall company while improving employee satisfaction.
Focusing on well-being
With the proximity between personal and professional narrowing, HR leaders are recognizing the need to support employee well-being and mental health. The pandemic has been hard on employees, and it has tested their resilience. People have been through a lot and they want to feel supported personally and professionally as they return to the office with new concerns about what the future of work will look like. Workplaces that integrate both spaces and services that provide for holistic employee well-being will be adding much-needed value for their teams.
How to add value to the workplace experience
Once you understand what employees need as they return to the office, providing value becomes a matter of creatively meeting those expectations.
Tech that supports hybrid work
Working from home taught us just how important communication technology is, and that requirement extends to the office. Employees need to be able to collaborate and communicate with coworkers on staggered schedules and clients in widespread geographic areas. Offices that do not find ways to give employees seamless digital communication options are going to fall behind. One study from PwC reveals that over half of executives are planning to enhance their conference rooms for maximum virtual connectivity.
There is incredible value in making things easy. When offices provide functioning and intuitive systems for their employees, the workplace becomes inviting.
Beware though. Employees are willing to embrace tech — but not at the expense of their privacy.
While it has been proven that high-level knowledge-based work can be done very effectively from home, the office provides a desirable place for people to collaborate in personal ways. The Wall Street Journal suggests that the office be thought of as “a place for connection and community—as a clubhouse rather than a workplace.”
The belief that collaborative space enhances experience and innovation can be seen in new office designs. For example, Salesforce has reduced their desks by 40% to make room for team-focused areas like booths with soft seating, community nooks, and cafes.
Salesforce reduced desks by 40% to make room for team-focused areas
Heads down work
An increase in collaborative areas does not mean eliminating space for individual work. Privacy, quiet, concentration, and focus are integral components of how people function to complete projects and jobs. Home offices can be hectic, and the relaxed domestic atmosphere is full of distractions and responsibilities.
Providing dedicated quiet zones where people can work without interruption is essential for productivity.
To address this need, Spotify has created what they call a library in their office with bookshelves dividing personal desk space, explaining, “It’s a space you can go to when you need to nail down that presentation.”
Learn how workplace leaders are creating the right mix of "we" and "me" spaces here.
The best support employees can have is options. Hybrid work schedules mean different teams on different days working on various projects. Having a balance of allocated space where employees can choose the kind of work they want to accomplish is the cornerstone of improving their workplace experience.
While some offices may choose to have dedicated “me” and “we” spaces, others will use flexible furniture that adapts to the real-time needs of their employees. The shift is to think about spaces as adaptable neighborhoods furnished for both team and solitary work as employees need them. Twilio is one example. They're redesigning spaces once fitted with workstations as "dynamic" spaces with configurable furniture.
It's creating yet another way in which people can collaborate. So it's no longer one-size-fits-all. It allows more variety to meet people where they are, to work how they work. — Devorah Rosner, Twilio
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, wrote in a shareholder letter, “We will quickly move to a more ‘open seating’ arrangement, in which digital tools will help manage seating arrangements, as well as needed amenities.”
Flexibility can take many forms — the key is adaptability. That can mean investing in open floor plans, hot desking, movable dividers, or tech for desk booking that can turn a conference room into a collaborative meeting space in the morning and a closed-door individual space in the afternoon.
What support looks like
One of the most important additions that can be added to an office is a proactive approach to wellness. This is another aspect of the work-life blend that has evolved from hybrid work. Employees want workplaces that meet their practical needs and well-being programs that care for them mentally and emotionally. In a very fundamental way, this is the integrated and holistic pinnacle of the modern workplace experience.
The company Synchrony Financial has adopted well-being coaches who work with employees to personalize wellness strategies. And it’s not a coincidence that 92% of employees say Synchrony is a great place to work.
Not every company can hire dedicated coaches, but they can start taking steps that tend to employee well-being. Things like providing ergonomic furniture, supplementing healthcare costs, adding healthy food options to break rooms, and offering childcare services are all forward gestures that herald the employee-first work age.
How you measure the value of your workplace
The importance of a positive employee experience is too important to be left to chance. Intentional and data-driven ways of making better spaces are an integral part of future design plans for employers and workplace leaders.
While metrics like value and experience are not in and of themselves quantifiable, there are ways to understand the impact your space is having.
The importance of a positive employee experience is too important to be left to chance.
Workplace utilization data
The best and most direct way to learn about your space is utilization data. Occupancy metrics show which spaces get used and when they are being utilized. This provides straightforward information on what employees value by revealing where they spend their time.
When employees feel valued and in turn value their workplace, they will be more engaged. This can be seen in part as another facet of space utilization—higher occupancy in certain areas can read as daily engagement.
But it also has to do with participation and going beyond minimum responsibilities. When people feel secure and nurtured, they naturally want to have a deeper involvement in their work. As a result, Harvard Business Review noticed that engaged employees are more likely to participate in ad-hoc meetings and initiatives.
There is no substitute for getting employee feedback when it comes to gauging workplace experience. It’s an essential component for finding out how people are engaging on a daily basis. Feedback can teach workplace leaders about space and tech needs, plus what kinds of wellness resources would be most effective for unique teams.
It also shows compassion and interest on the part of the employer, and a study by Gallup reveals that listening to employee feedback actually increases productivity.
In a bigger and longer-term picture, measuring retention shows what is working. Amid an unprecedented shift in employment numbers following the pandemic, retention is a highly valuable way to recognize the overall experience of your employees. Simply put, people who feel encouraged, productively challenged, and valued will stay with a company.
A new standard
Hybrid work has made the employment landscape an intricate structured balance. People work from various places, schedules are staggered for flexibility and safety, advanced tech needs are mandatory, and providing for the complex work-life of employees in and out of the workplace is requisite.
Most importantly, each of these threads does not exist parallel to the others, but instead, they are braided together to create an integrated employee experience. To make sure you are providing the necessary components that complete this united workplace approach, find out what your employees need and how to measure the value you are adding to these new standards.