How have the needs of your employees changed in the last 5-10 years?
I don’t want you to just think about how we managed the restrictions of the pandemic, but consider the needs of those individuals within your business.
Are they getting older? Most of us do, but what does that mean for how you keep them engaged and provide appropriate support?
Or, are they getting younger? Having brought new people into your business, you may have found that their wants and needs differ from those of your established team (this report from Deloitte identifies those struggles Gen Z and Millennials are currently dealing with).
For many workers, and businesses, the last 2 years turned our expected working experience upside-down. We’ve talked before about insights gained through these changes, but it’s important that we keep reviewing the research as things haven’t settled down yet.
Another recent report from Steelcase sums it up this way:
“The labor market is hot and people are quitting in record numbers. And it’s not just for more money. During the pandemic, there’s been a major shift in employee expectations and people are re-evaluating their lives — both personally and professionally. Whether you call it The Great Resignation, The Great Reshuffle, The Great Reckoning or The Great Recognition, leaders are struggling with what to do to attract and retain talent.”
The report goes on to identify trust and community as essential to keeping employees committed; so how can you ensure your office space provides a positive environment for your people bringing them closer and creating community?
Workspace Design For Positive Employee Experience
Looking after the needs of your people is essential.
Not only are we are seeing that people aren’t scared to walk away from jobs which aren’t supporting the lifestyle they want, but we already know how important it is that employees feel valued and engaged if we want them to perform at their best (we looked at this in this blog about Improving Employee Experience).
While many businesses are exploring opportunities for flexible working, it’s clear many of us don’t yet have all the answers we need to provide the best environments for our people - or our organisation’s needs.
So, what are we looking for in our workspaces?
Focus and Productivity
Many people have thrived working at home having created a workspace which allows them to focus. Equally, many people don’t have that kind of environment at home and have been relying on a return to the shared office to provide that focused space.
In fact, the Steelcase report mentioned earlier asked respondents to consider their priorities for shared office spaces. For those in the UK, these priorities are:
Hybrid collaboration spaces
Single-person enclaves for hybrid meetings
So, while collaboration may be the headline used by many organisations to pull people back into offices, offering them the opportunity for focused work and private conversations while they are there will be key to them staying and returning.
Collaboration and Creativity
Opportunities for collaboration inspire creativity and enhance relationships within teams.
We’ve heard about struggles to develop new ideas while remote working was enforced, opportunities for hybrid meetings will now enable individuals to share insights and collaborate in ways which benefit everyone in the team.
The fact is, each of us excels in different environments, what encourages creativity for one employee might distract and dull someone else. Creating opportunities which allow flexibility in work processes is possible now in ways it wasn’t just a few years ago. Exploring - not only what is possible but what your team would benefit from - does not need to be as daunting as you might expect.
Trust and Community
Again, a recurring finding of employee satisfaction surveys is the concern from many individuals that trust has been lost since leaving the office.
A lack of engagement with their organisation and poor communication within teams has caused many people to feel that they are not trusted and that they cannot trust their employers. Workplaces will be key in pulling people together, offering opportunities for connection and support. This might be through collaborative workspaces or relaxed communal areas for socialising, again - the priority for your organisation will depend on your people and your business aims.
Communities offer strength and support
The strength of your business is tied to the commitment of your people and, increasingly, a payslip is not enough of a tie.
Employees will commit to organisations who show values, motivations and actions which align with their own; when a company’s treatment of employees reflects these higher values there is even more likelihood of individuals showing loyalty and engagement in return.
Designing offices which inspire and engage your people requires an understanding of what your people are looking for.
Spaces to work together
Spaces to spend relaxed time
Spaces to be private
Spaces to communicate with those elsewhere
For people to feel part of a community it’s important they know where their space is in the office, whether an allocated desk or an office for their team. Being able to book a desk or a room takes away the fear of having nowhere to work and means plans can be made with others.
And, while different zones for different tasks provide real benefit, the flexibility of moving between spaces will also offer additional value. Spaces should also be inclusive allowing collaboration with remote workers easily.
Bringing it Together
Encouraging people into shared workspaces will only be positive if they have a productive experience while there. Talk to your teams to find out what they need, allaying any concerns they have and providing opportunities for them to feel comfortable and part of a team while in the office.
Providing spaces which work for your organisation may not be as difficult as you imagine.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.