Remember the time when running and business and having a job seemed rather straight forward and yes, even simple? The company had openings and they looked for the right fit. If the conditions were appealing to the prospective hire, they accepted the job and both ‘sides’ were happy and satisfied. If this sounds simple it’s probably because it was especially when compared to today’s reality of COVID still being a major factor for all parties.
Now, we are going on 20 months of reshaping and retooling the business and the approach needed to remain viable. Now, organizations have had to change the way business functions to keep our teams safe and healthy. Though we want to return to the comfort of how we have operated for many years past, it’s not a realistic given. Business leaders have their own personal opinions related to COVID and vaccinations. However, employees have gained a voice that will influence the ultimate measures and processes that an organization will need consideration.
Many larger companies have reached out to employees to find out aspects of their jobs that are their concerns and needs. There is little doubt that these have changed … the result of changes imposed on workers because of COVID. Steelcase, the manufacturer of office furniture, has summarized their findings that represent the findings of many organizations.
- Overall, employees have spent months at home either full or part-time. Thus they are more in touch with what they expect from their jobs and workplace.
- They have new and increased expectations of their employers and workplaces. As a result they seek a very different and improved experience than the one they left pre-COVID.
- Five critical needs were identified that will change the overall work experience. Although some were in existence pre-pandemic, time spent working at home increased the awareness and importance of each. They are as follows:
EMPLOYEE NEEDS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORK EXPERIENCE
- Employees in the U.S. identified Air Quality, Adherence to Safety Protocols and Facility Cleanliness as being of greatest importance. It is clear people will need to feel confident that their workplaces are safe. They need to trust that their employers and peers are doing everything possible to keep them safe before returning.
- Today, many are working part-time in the office and the balance of time in their residences. They want to choose their days in the office environment to minimize exposure to others not following safety protocols.
People have a basic need to belong having nothing to do with the pandemic. COVID has left people feeling extremely isolated, making the need to feel part of a community at work more important.
- The reality of community created in the workplace not only contributes to people’s wellbeing, but it also leads to better business outcomes as well. People feeling part of a community is a top predictor of higher scores in productivity, engagement, innovation and commitment.
- Creating community while people are not able to be together requires significant effort. The more extensively people work from home, the greater the challenge.
- The workplace can be designed to help foster a sense of community, and there are three specific attributes that make a positive impact:
- The office has places where leaders are present and accessible.
- There are spaces that foster social interaction and help build a sense of belonging.
- The workplace offers stimulating and inspiring areas that promote and encourage creative thinking and problem solving.
- Four key reasons that make employees wanting to return to an office environment at least part-time are:
- The ability to reconnect with colleagues
- Reconnecting to the organization and the shared purpose common to all
- Work in a professional environment
- The ability to collaborate in person
- People want to feel that what they do is meaningful. This has been amplified during the crisis as organizations have needed to respond to dramatically changing business conditions.
- For those working part-time in the office and the balance of time in their residences they want some choice as to the days they choose the office environment to minimize exposure to any others not choosing of following safety protocols.
- Creative work, solving complex problems and innovation all require an ebb and flow between “me” and “we” work. This means the workplace must provide spaces for both that make it easy to transition between the different work modes.
- Employees, more so than leaders in many countries, express a need for the office to provide places to focus. Potentially because their home environments are less likely to be the same size or have the same amenities as the office. The 5 most important things that employees want in the office include:
- Access to tools
- Team belonging
- Workplace belonging
- People are more aware of their physical, cognitive and emotional needs for comfort and wellbeing. Therefore, they expect organizations to address them when they return to the office.
- Those who have been comfortable at home, whether it be because they enjoyed a more relaxed environment or had created a space to work that fits their preferences, want that to continue in the office.
- Those who’ve been uncomfortable working from home are looking forward to an office designed holistically to support their comfort. They are now more acutely aware of their physical aches and pains after working from sofas, kitchen counters and even beds at home.
- While being at home all day has its drawbacks, many people feel they have more control navigating their day at home than they do in the office. They are free to choose if they work from a dedicated office or sit on the sofa or outside. They often have more choice to integrate aspects of their personal lives throughout their day, such as exercising or interacting with family, friends or pets.
- In addition to no commute, another aspect of working from home that is highly rated by most participants is increased flexibility. They also feel their work-life balance and level of autonomy improves.
- Moving forward, people will want the same level of control over their work lives that they have at home — control over where they work and their environment in the office.
Studies have revealed that the sense of work-life balance is one thing improved as we weathered the pandemic of the past 20 months. The positives of this have resulted in employees wanting and expecting more control over where and how they work. It appears that employers are getting this message and in so doing have a greater chance of retaining and attracting a productive, happy and healthier team. Whether or not an employer personally chooses to not get the COVID vaccination is a personal choice. However, attracting the skilled and desired workforce may just need to put the personal aside and listen to the louder voice of the team.