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People’s expectations about their work experience changed during the pandemic. Living through a life-altering experience has caused many to think about what’s most important to them and to question assumptions about how work should happen. And leading organizations are listening. They see this moment as an opportunity to reinvent their policies, offices and overall work experience. This will lead to macro-level shifts in four key areas.
Seventy-three percent of U.S. employees* said their top concerns are air quality and adherence to safety protocols which means behavioral strategies, such as mask wearing and distancing, need to be augmented with changes to the built environment.
Organizations can make the workplace even safer by intentionally designing the built environment to help mitigate disease transmission. Understanding how pathogens move through an environment will help companies develop new systemic strategies to help prevent infections at work.
People’s desire to accomplish something meaningful has only heightened during the crisis. Before the pandemic people were frustrated with workplaces that didn’t give them ways to control their privacy and do focused work.
During the pandemic, working from home didn’t make that any better for many people: engagement declined 14% and productivity dropped 12% among employees who were unsatisfied with their work-from-home situation, especially the longer they did it.
The top three things people say they want from their office are all about being more productive: to collaborate with others effectively, easier access to tools and resources and the ability to focus. People want a better experience in which they can easily shift between group and solo work in both physical and digital environments.
People who have lived through a crisis want inspiration — they want to feel a part of something meaningful.
The top two reasons people say they want to be back in the office are to connect with colleagues and feel a sense of shared purpose with the organization.
These are both attributes of a strong community, along with trust, inclusivity and resilience. In turn, a strong community correlates with key business outcomes — engagement, productivity, innovation and retention. The workplace can intentionally foster meaningful interactions and signal that change and adaptation are part of the culture and something to be embraced.
Historically designed for permanence, buildings and offices have been dominated by fixed architecture, power and furnishings. Going forward, organizations will offer more flexible work policies and they will need places that can adapt easily to the changes in where and how people work, and respond to changing business circumstances. Workplaces will need to embrace multi-use spaces that can support diverse types of activities. Furnishings will easily move to allow spaces to expand and contract as needed.
While living through a crisis has not been easy on anyone, it has caused people and organizations to think about our shared humanity and what we want to achieve together. We can use this moment as a catalyst for reinventing an office that is not just a container for work, but a place that creates a community where people can feel a renewed sense of belonging, resilience and purpose.