Advancement in many sectors including science and technology is helping us manage the current pandemic better than previous ones. According to this report, 83% of employers say that remote work was successful. This is a 10% increase over the 2020 survey. At the same time, however, many creative departments struggled to transform ideas into the product thanks to the loss of face-to-face interaction that is so crucial in the development process. And isolation has taken its toll on employees in terms of the rise in mental health problems. So how to encourage employees to return to the office?
1. A new era of work requires a new office layout
One of the main reasons why employees want to return to the office is FOMO (fear of missing out). To have personal interactions and to build relationships is a key to employee’s happiness. This research found that employees who have a best friend at work are five times more likely to work with passion and feel connected to the company. This suggests that employees returning to the office will seek meaningful collaboration. And the office layout should accommodate that.
The pandemic only accelerated what was already in process. Meeting rooms are being transformed into more casual, and comfortable collaborative areas with tables, whiteboards and various seating options. Now, that office is becoming a more dynamic place, there is no need to stick to separate departments. The entire office will occupy the same space with shared come-and-go workstations. With a smaller hierarchy comes more freedom and equality, which also improves cross-department collaboration.
Employees working from home got used to the comfortable amenities their house provided, so the office must offer a similar experience. Employees should be able to bounce between a desk, standing desk, lounge chair, couch and seating on the patio. And with food and fitness amenities, offices will be more attractive, so the experience match having a quick snack made at a home kitchen or going for lunch at a neighbourhood restaurant.
2. Smart technology that makes everything easier
The pandemic has created a high demand for contactless solutions so that people can interact safely without having to touch things. While the technology already exists, now it is up to companies to implement it. The result will be safer and often faster interactions with fewer surfaces that need to be maintained and cleaned. No more switches. You will be able to open the front door or call the elevator with your phone. And the washroom door will automatically open as you wave at the sensor.
The time employees spend managing the facilities and their accounts should be kept to a minimum by using a single app. This office hub app displays work info, resources, employees will be able to report their whereabouts, book meeting rooms, register guests and monitor facilities. The app can also work as a contact tracing solution.
Your company may consider an internal podcast to keep everyone in the loop. Talking is way faster than writing an email. And in the new world of hybrid workplaces, it is important to find new ways how to keep employees connected and engaged. Plus, employees returning to the office should be informed and prepared for what awaits them so they can return comfortably.
The past year changed the way we think about our health. And the high standards we have set for health and safety will remain for the foreseeable future. A modern office should have plenty of daylight and natural elements that have a positive impact on people’s well-being. This study shows that employees exposed to daylight had better vitality than employees without exposure, who also reported poor sleep quality.
COVID-19 like many other diseases is airborne. And according to the CDC, ventilation plays a significant role in reducing the spread of these viruses. Not to mention that not recycled fresh air provides an optimal supply of oxygen. The future office should include smart environmental sensors that will together with HVAC 2.0 systems ensure fresh air without airborne mould, viruses and bacteria.
After realizing how vulnerable people are to diseases, we logically increased sanitation. This trend should continue to ensure a safe and clean environment for returning workers. If office space is limited and employees cannot maintain a safe distance, dividers should be put in place. This solution ensures privacy, safety and thanks to the acoustic fabric, maintains the optimal sound level. In customer-facing areas, shields might be required to protect both employees and clients.
Rooms can be equipped with an analytic component that warns when the capacity of the room is reached. Another preventive measure is a thermal camera that will automatically monitor every person entering the premises for high temperatures. Offices also might be equipped with light and noise level monitors to collect data in order to optimize the environment so the employees can enjoy the best working conditions.
We have learned that being fit and healthy can be a lifesaver when battling a disease. Therefore, employers should provide optimal ergonomic tools so the employees can maintain healthy working habits. Like standing desks that allow an active work style and an ergonomic office chair that can be adjusted to encourage and support a healthy sitting posture in an upright position.
Office 2.0 is progressive with health, wellness and collaboration at the forefront. And it can become a welcoming alternative to our homes in the future of hybrid work culture.