Now is the time to re-imagine a better workplace
Why engaging your employees in the return to work will lead to more productivity
To think beyond the safe and mandated guidelines that businesses across the nation will adhere to when returning to the workplace, designers are discovering there is one critical component missing: engaging employees on how they envision their future workplace.
As companies slowly exit quarantine due to the COVID-19 crisis, companies that seize the opportunity to take a collective deep breath and re-think what worked before the pandemic, what didn’t and what could be better — while including their multi-generational employees in the process — will be enlightened moving forward in the new normal.
Full team engagement brings a fresh perspective, varied ideas and innovative solutions for the workplace. The pandemic brought about the catch phrase “in this together.” Companies want to accelerate economic recovery but must also realize that the economic engine of businesses is their employees. Creativity, innovation and productivity is achieved when people, who share a common purpose, come together in the workplace.
The thought of going back to the workplace after being at home in safe quarantine has many employees still feeling uneasy and insecure. The time has come, though, for employees to transition to the new normal with safety procedures in place. They know it will be different, as companies have learned working from home has increased the productivity of many employees and changed how they work. An overwhelming percentage of employees say working from home is an option they would welcome permanently, for part of the week.
Even still, working from home comes with a few new adjustments. With the physical transition from work to home missing, the day becomes blurred between when the workday starts and when it ends. People are still figuring out the right balance between virtual meetings and the lack of in-person interaction with co-workers, which may be, for some, the greatest motivation to go back.
Over the years, the workplace has included amenities reminiscent of home, and during quarantine we brought the office into our home. People love the flexibility that working from home provides, but what they miss is the sense of community, social interaction and collaboration, and a shared sense of purpose going to the office affords.
Companies are challenged to reconcile these two experiences that blends the best of both worlds while adapting to the new “normal.”
Although employees may all yearn for the way things were, the “old normal” was not perfect. For years they have heard passionate arguments for and against the open office – the latter being the increased noise and lack of acoustic and visual privacy, not having your own desk in some cases, bad lighting, temperature controls, lack of technology and never enough meeting space.
However, it is important to recognize that a thoughtfully designed environment must support how employees work best, paired with a strong, inclusive culture and transparent communication from leadership to make them feel safe, connected and valued. The result is a natural exploration and unleashing of their most creative and innovative ideas, maximizing their potential at work.
Ultimately, a great place to work is not just about having the latest and greatest amenities, it is about employees being productive and happy because they formed part of the solution and had input in shaping their new work environment. Knowing they have been engaged in the plan to return to work, will likely make them feel safer and even excited to go back to the office and be with their people.
It is time employers apply the lessons learned from the past and use them to create a better, more engaged workforce in the future.
If companies look on the bright side of this time in quarantine and what they have learned, employees are unequivocally grateful for this gift of time. In the “old normal” the thought of work/life balance was merely a myth to employees. This time at home has had a positive impact on new ways teams are collaborating due to advances in technology, and a sense of achieving work/life balance.
Be prepared to pivot and adapt until the right balance of measures, policies and workplace environment, that supports your culture and your company mission, is found. The outcome will represent a new employee engagement paradigm that provides an increase in communications, a focus on employee health and wellbeing, while creating a more resilient, responsible and dedicated workforce.
This pandemic will likely change the lives of workers and employers for the better. A positive outlook will help transform corporate culture and challenge companies to explore how to fully engage their renewed and motivated workforce, whether in the office or at home. What companies and employees have today is a once in a lifetime opportunity to come together and re-imagine a better workplace experience.