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Offices have always been evolving, but this past year has accelerated the change. As workplaces look forward to welcoming their teams back into physical spaces after the global pandemic forced everyone home, many leaders are facing a pivot point: Do we go back to business as usual, and pick up where we left off in March 2020? Or do we reimagine the future of the workplace — from who’s in the office, to collaboration across hybrid teams, to what tech we can adopt to make everyone feel safe and healthy?
When workers return to the office, what’s going to matter most is the workplace experience, from healthy initiatives to new technologies to ensuring wellness for all.
Physical office spaces haven’t stayed the same, as they’ve evolved to meet business and employee needs — but they haven’t changed much over the past century, either. Open offices with desks in rows or clumps, with private offices for managers has been the norm for a while. There was some collaboration, but mostly departments stayed siloed.
Realizing that better collaboration produced better results, offices grew more open, and gave the freedom for teams to meet in various spaces and have casual interactions that could foster innovation. The rise in employee wellness led to services like gyms and meditation sessions at work, as well as more flexible work arrangements. The rise in technology allowed workers to move around the office or go remote, facilitating the increase in hot-desking and co-working spaces.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, turning workplaces into all-remote offices overnight. Now that many offices are returning to work, it’s a great opportunity to not just make adjustments for health and safety, but to really evaluate the office space as a whole, and see how you can prepare for the longer-term future of work.
When facing the future of work and considering how you want to reimagine your office post-Covid, be aware of the following trends in order to increase engagement through a positive workplace experience.
Evolution of the workplace
Offices won’t go back to the way they were pre-pandemic, starting with who will even be in the office on a daily basis (studies show that having workers in the office at least three days a week is the number needed “to maintain a distinct company culture”). Be sure to put in place the right tools to keep hybrid teams connected, including video conferencing with interactive features, group chat apps or even entire digital hubs.
Prioritizing the employee experience
If they’ve been working at home for a year, your employees will have a different outlook on work environments and what they now prefer. Part of the return to work will be providing experiences that make them feel safe, engaged and wanting to return. This will include options like providing flexible work arrangements, wellness programming, touchless buttons and more. Qualtrics reports that a sense of belonging drives the most engagement, and employees need an office where they feel like they can belong.
A focus on health and wellbeing
Wellness programs have been on the rise, but now’s the time to implement them or scale them if you have something in place. According to SHRM, wellness programs can increase productivity, improve morale, and lower health-related costs. After this past year, employees not only need to know that their employer is watching out for them and concerned about their wellbeing, but employees will still be dealing with their own stresses from this past year, from income loss to losing a loved one.
A focus on resilience
Resilience has been a necessary trait this entire past year, for both employees and leaders alike — and that won’t change once office work resumes. Work Design Magazine suggests taking a physical and socio-emotional approach to resilience. In other words, don’t just focus on resiliency when it comes to flexible scheduling, office spaces, furniture and safety, but also focus on people and how they can bounce back from the past year.
Incorporate gamification and fun
When it comes to creating a great workplace experience that keeps employees engaged, make sure to keep the fun going through friendly team competition, a question of the week on the chat app, virtual happy hours and other creative approaches. This not only keeps employees engaged and building relationships with one another, but gamification approaches could reduce turnover by 20% as well.
The future of the office is certainly going to look different, with a new focus on health and wellness, employee engagement, increased technology and new hybrid ways forward. But isn’t it time it should look different?