Vaccine roll-out is gaining traction, the world is hopeful, and people are starting to dream about, and even plan, their next adventure. This is exciting news given we just past the one-year mark since total lockdown, although it seems longer. Having a light at the end of the tunnel is exciting and optimism is finally returning to many of us!
So, what about work? Are you going back? Are you working from home? Will you be doing a little of both? And if you do go back, what will the office look like and will it be fit for purpose given the world has changed? What type of technology do we need?
These are the questions being asked and companies are trying to focus on the answers.
Whether it is a full return, hybrid approach, or work from home, the experience will be different. A new type of workplace has emerged. What does it look like? Health and Safety is top of mind, especially at the beginning of the return, and you will see this engrained in every culture, for the employee and companies. There are those that are implementing barriers and other social distancing practices, but is this the right way to move forward? We are seeing a wide range of approaches including back to work at close to “normal levels”, a heavy wellbeing focus, and tech enabled shifts into the future, or a combination of all of the above.
In the US, we expect that we will hit herd immunity later this year and we may not be in a place where everyone must wear a mask all the time. Should we then be thinking of the longer-term plan and looking at our workplace accordingly?
We have proven that heads down work can be done at home and arguably with more focus. But we are truly missing the casual conversations and water cooler meet ups that spark meaningful ideas and innovation. These cannot be scheduled all the time and businesses need to create these opportunities to thrive. This is not about planning for work groups to come back on the same day and at the same time, although that can be useful, but rather creating places that encourage casual collisions and collaboration among many. Companies were already working on this approach pre-pandemic and now the practice will be accelerated as planning moves to the next phase.
How do we bring people together?
The main glue is food and beverage, of course! This is the one area that drives all employees to a space and gives them accepted time to meet, collaborate and bump into others. This can be in the coffee shop, the employee restaurant, the meeting space, or even the pantry. The key is to give each amenity area purpose that includes the right seating, a menu that employees enjoy, a cool factor that rivals what they can get outside, at a price that makes sense.
Allocating more space, in the right location will be key to give employees a reason to want to come to the office and the opportunity to build meaningful connections – a term we call, “magnetizing the workplace experience”.
There are other areas that have emerged and should be considered in any amenity design for the new workplace. Health and wellness spaces include a relaxion and mindful focus as well as exercise. This does not have to be a typical “gym” but can be a place that has exercise options that are independent, or group focused. Quiet spaces for reflection and peace. Meeting and in person training spaces built with the latest technology and flexibility. Making everything easy and accessible for your employees will drive their productivity and engagement. Imagine if childcare and retail can be incorporated into the building design? What about meditation, yoga, or fun zones? This is the reimagined future workplace.
"With less people coming in daily it makes sense to repurpose space to create community and function that can act as a draw for people to want to come, turning spaces into places where people choose to be. In this new workplace technology and new apps are very important."
Making life easier and safer is key and all this needs to be threaded and simplified. Having a workplace app that connects the dots and allows you to think about your end-to-end experience will be the differentiator. Looking at it in a similar way to high-end resort management, where your every need has been anticipated, considered, and planned for in the overall experience. In the workplace, this includes your desk reservation, transportation, parking, building entry and warm welcome, food and beverage ordering, meeting room reservations, health club and spa treatments, your afternoon coffee and picking up a few necessities before departing.
Sounds simple? Maybe, but planning for the full experience, design functionality and the operations takes innovation and openness to change. Are you ready?
Barbara Boden is Co-Owner and Managing Partner of 4xi Global Consulting. Barbara assists companies with workplace solutions focusing on Amenity Design Strategy, Employee and Client Experience and Operational Improvements.4XI bridges the gap between the architect, kitchen consultants, and operators to ensure the clients workplaces are designed or reimagined from the start.
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4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.
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