It’s no secret that employee expectations have changed since COVID upended our world, and the workplace must change to meet those expectations. Employees want to be more informed and connected than they did before. And while many employees have enjoyed the flexibility of working remotely, many equally miss in-office collaboration. To enable flexible remote work while still promoting in-person collaboration, companies are adopting hybrid work policies. This hybrid approach allows companies to meet the new needs of the workforce. This shift in work approach and office utilization brings with it new challenges, and it’s critical to understand what will change within the workplace, and why. In this article, we’ll cover how collaboration, flexibility, and health and safety all must be prioritized when bringing employees back to the workplace.
Let’s dive into the top three things to consider for any office reopening planning, starting with employee collaboration.
Employee Collaboration in the Workplace
When companies temporarily closed their offices and transitioned their employees to remote work as a result of COVID-19, organizations had to reassess the need for traditional office space. While remote working provides many benefits to employees such as flexibility, a better work-life balance, and no stressful commute, businesses quickly realized that the office environment is crucial for enabling face-to-face human interactions and workplace collaboration that can’t be replicated on a video call. According to PwC, 87% of employees say the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships. In fact, only 16% of workers feel that they are thriving while working from home. Remote work and the lack of employee collaboration have also had an enormous impact on mental health. A study by Martel shows a significant drop in mental health, job satisfaction, and job motivation since transitioning to a remote working style, and all of these factors play into a poor employee experience, which can lead to a decline in productivity.
Despite the flexible benefits of working from home, some employees simply miss the office environment and are ready to return more regularly, while others seek in-person collaboration opportunities. In a human experience study performed by JLL, 74% of respondents said they want to work in the office in some capacity, the majority preferring a hybrid approach to working. There’s been a paradigm shift in the way that we work, and in order to adapt to the new normal, employers must implement employee-centric solutions to prioritize collaboration among a hybrid workforce. Check out our on-demand webinar to learn about the technology that’s needed to turn your workplace into a venue for employee collaboration.
Clearly, employee collaboration is a critical component to consider as you reopen the workplace. But employees also need the time and space to do heads-down solo work, and for many people, this is best done at home. In fact, the same PwC study also showed that 79% of workers still want to be able to work from home at least one day per week, if not more. In order to accommodate all types of workers and styles of working, it’s critical to prioritize flexibility in your return-to-work plan.
Flexibility in the Workplace
For most companies, the days of the 9 to 5 in-office experience are over. Employees have become accustomed to working when they want and where they want—and it’s been proven to actually increase productivity. One study conducted by a Fortune 500 company found that over a nine-month period, flexible workers achieved more, were sick less often, worked longer hours, and were happier than their 9 to 5 in-office peers. Giving employees the flexibility to choose which days or hours they work in the office versus at home will lead to less burnout and psychological stress among your workforce. The key to making flexible working a priority as you reopen the workplace is giving employees the ability to choose where and how they work—but this requires implementing new office space management software that allows employees to reserve the spaces they need, when they need them.
With desk management solutions and meeting room booking software, your workforce will be able to quickly and easily book the office resources they need to accomplish the type of work they want to do—whether that means a large conference room for a team meeting, a desk in a quiet space to focus on an independent project, or a room equipped with video conferencing technology to meet with remote colleagues.
Meeting employee needs for flexibility and collaboration will help your company succeed in the new world of work, but those are just the first two things to consider when it comes to reopening the office. One of the most important parts of preparing your office for the return of your workforce is ensuring the health and safety of your employees.
Returning to Work with Employee Health and Safety in Mind
The health and safety of your workforce must be the top priority as you reopen the office, and your employees need to know that. While most employees miss the collaboration and connectivity of an office environment, almost half of employees feel that they’re forced to sacrifice personal safety to remain employed. By leveraging advancements in workplace technology and office space management software, you can help address the health and safety concerns of employees and help prevent the spread of infection in the office. With office space management software, you’ll gain the ability to manage how employees interact with your space from the moment they enter the front door, helping you support social distancing, office contact tracing, sanitation, and more. By implementing a temperature screening kiosk at your facility’s entrance points, you can notify employees when they have a high temperature and help prevent infection from entering the workplace.
Once employees are back, your office space management software should integrate with office occupancy sensors to measure the capacity of meeting and conference rooms and help keep track of whether or not booked spaces are actually being used. All of the sensor data, plus desk and room booking data, can be viewed with advanced reports that not only provide utilization insight that can help you optimize your space, but also the ability to pull contact tracing reports. All of these capabilities are extremely important to facilitate a safe return to the office and ensure employees that their health is your primary concern. For more information on how to prioritize health and safety as your return to the workplace, check out our return to work guide.
We’ve learned a lot this past year, but one of the biggest takeaways is that the role of the office will be different moving forward. Collaboration with colleagues is a critical part of having a happy and productive workforce, and in order to support face-to-face interactions, the office must evolve from a box of desks and meeting rooms to a venue for collaboration, innovation, and teamwork. The pandemic also taught us that flexibility can lead to a happier and more productive workforce. Making employee collaboration and workplace flexibility priorities as you reopen the office not only requires new work policies, but also new technology to support these changes and ensure that employee health and safety is top-of-mind throughout. We know that making these changes is a lot to take on, but we’ve helped many of our customers with this process and we know what’s required. To learn about how SmartSpace Global can help with your return-to-work planning, contact us and one of our teammates will reach out to talk.