- While remote work continues in one form or other, what’s interesting is how different organisations are tackling the thorny issue of ‘returning to the office’.
- Regardless of where employees work, business leaders recognise that to create a more productive and connected environment, they need to make the workplace experience a positive one.
- WorkForce Software report ‘The State of Human Experience in the Workplace’ gives three key recommendations to help companies plan an employee experience strategy.
For many, 2021 is proving to be a continuation of 2020. More of the same, albeit with fewer restrictions.
And while remote work continues in one form or other, what’s interesting is how different organisations are tackling the thorny issue of ‘returning to the office’.
Decisions and announcements swing from one extreme to the other.
There are those that claim remote work is an “aberration” that must be abolished as soon as possible, while others recognise the benefits of remote work and have relinquished their office-focused mentality in part, or in full, for good.
One thing that can’t go ignored is the workplace experience.
Whether at home, in a central office, or working from anywhere, workplace experience can be enormously beneficial – or it can be detrimental to productivity.
What is Workplace Experience? – Space IQ
Workplace experience is the sum of interactions an employee has with their workplace. It encompasses how comfortable and welcome they feel, how productive they’re able to be, and how fulfilled they feel as an individual.
Workplace experience is the metric that bridges the gap between an employee and their workplace. But the workplace isn’t strictly physical. Workplace experience also encompasses an employee’s digital interactions.
Regardless of where employees work, business leaders recognise that to create a more productive and connected environment, they need to make the workplace experience a positive one.
A report by WorkForce Software, ‘The State of Human Experience in the Workplace’ (June 2021) shines a light on the impact of workplace experience.
It makes the point that although employee experience has been a growing topic for some years, now – at the “back end” of the pandemic – is the most crucial time of all.
That’s because employers need to find new ways to engage with both existing workers and potential recruits. The report notes that “this has become even more vital as employees have taken time to assess their current experience and are finding more opportunities, because the rise of remote work has lessened geographic restrictions on hiring.”
Now more than ever, employees have choice over where and how they work – which means the onus is on the employer to offer new and meaningful ways to engage their workforce and retain talent.
For 54% of respondents, the rise of remote work during the pandemic is driving employee experience strategy.
However, there are challenges – and unsurprisingly, cost is a top hindrance.
When asked what limits their organization’s investment in employee experience:
- 56% of respondents indicated budget restraints
- 41% said their organization has more important priorities
- 30% face a lack of interest from managers
- 28% have a lack of understanding of employee experience management
- 25% admit to “not knowing where to start”.
Despite budget constraints being a major hindrance, only about one-fifth of respondents indicated that there was no clear business case for employee experience processes or technology.
And positively, when compared to two years ago, organizational focus on employee experience is “somewhat greater or significantly greater today for 65% of respondents”.
The report made three key recommendations to help companies plan an employee experience strategy:
- Use the lessons of the pandemic. Organizations should be looking at what worked and what didn’t work for employees over the past 18 months, and structure future models based on the most favourable outcomes. In short, speak to your people, learn from their experiences, and use these learnings to create a more positive workplace experience going forward.
- Communicate to senior leadership where employee experience impacts your bottom line. The majority of respondents felt there was a clear business case for employee experience – and yet, budgets are still a hindrance. This suggests there is a communication gap between managers and senior executives. “Vendors need to better express how employee experience positively or negatively impacts the business.”
- Assess the current state of employee experience at your organization. Where does your company provide the best experiences and how can you leverage those tactics to improve other areas? Conversely, in which areas are your worst employee experiences? It’s important to gain insights from a wide range of people – including supervisors, managers, and of course individual employees. Knowing your experience strength and gaps can help determine what processes and technology you’ll need to improve.
One key learning from the pandemic is our need to be with other people.
According to Gensler’s 2021 Design Forecast: “If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we need in-person human interactions — both for our health and well-being, and for the economy.”
When analysing and re-evaluating the employee experience, Gensler notes that creating a built environment that motivates us to leave our homes requires a more holistic design approach focused on people’s experiences.
But what if you don’t have an elastic budget that can stretch to holistic design?
One answer is to seek out workplaces that already offer it.
That’s where flexible workplaces and coworking spaces can play their trump card. These spaces readily invest in human-focused design and positive experiences, through their commitment to fostering community and facilitating meaningful connections.
As Gensler notes, “people-first design is now the new currency in building communities” — and flexible workspaces make it their business to be at the forefront of this movement.
After all, it’s in their interests to do so. As the old adage goes, ‘work is no longer a place you go but a thing you do’, and since many people have now learned that they can work form anywhere, workspace companies must work harder to attract paying members into their spaces.
Here’s the top takeaway. Whether you invest in your own human-focused design or find a community-centred space to take care of it for you, if you only do one thing to improve your workplace experience, let it be human-focused.