Over the past month, companies ranging from GM to the New York Times have faced backlash over their return-to-office policies and plans. While the vast majority of these businesses are permitting their staff to have hybrid work arrangements, some workers still aren’t happy — and for good reason.
Many want more flexibility and control over which days they go into the office. Others simply want a clear answer from their employer as to why they’re being asked to resume in-person work, rather than a vague explanation like “it’s better for collaboration” or “it’s just time.”
Employees are demanding this explanation partly because they suspect their companies still don’t trust them to be productive at home, despite the fact that there’s been nothing to support this. In fact, new research from Microsoft reveals that while 87% of employees report that they’re productive, just 12% of leaders have full confidence that their team is productive.
Microsoft has dubbed this disconnect “productivity paranoia,” and so long as it continues to exist, many companies will be hesitant to do away with their offices completely. But there are other factors that influence the decision to adopt hybrid versus fully remote work arrangements, and it ultimately comes down to each company’s unique business needs.
If your organization has landed on a hybrid approach, I hope you’ve been transparent with your teams about your decision-making along the way. However, that doesn’t mean you should expect your employees to be thrilled about going into the office. In fact, I think it’s critical that companies take steps to make their workplace experience more appealing — and quickly. The reality is that we’re still in a largely employee-driven job market right now, which means that workers have all the power to select a job that offers them the best overall experience.
This type of experience is one where people have the right tools to support them when they’re in the office, an environment that enhances their productivity and well-being, and workplace benefits and perks that add real value to their lives. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four ways employers can improve their office experience in a way that will truly move the needle on people’s satisfaction with hybrid working.
1. Give people the tools they need for a seamless day at the office
For hybrid workers, going into the office could present a whole new slew of challenges, from being able to access the Wi-Fi to locating an available desk. It’s every employee’s worst nightmare to arrive a few minutes late to work and not be able to find the type of workspace they need for the day. This is especially true for companies that have downsized their space because they no longer need to accommodate their entire workforce on any given day.
For most organizations, the answer is a best-in-class workplace management software, like the platform offered by Proximity. Their solution allows employees to book desks, offices, and collaboration/conference spaces, and it lets them view a map that shows which workspaces are available and for how long. People can also use the platform, which easily integrates with Google and Office 365, for on-site check-ins, secure building and room access via digital keys, and to safely access the building’s Wi-Fi network.
2. Provide benefits and amenities that are actually valuable to your staff
One common complaint from employees is that companies don’t understand which incentives will actually motivate them to go into the office. For most workers, offering free snacks or coffee isn’t enough of a reason for them to spend time commuting (not to mention paying for gas), packing their lunch (or spending money on eating out), or dealing with the hassle of securing childcare or pet care. People also aren’t likely to be enticed by “forced fun” events in the office like a weekly ping-pong tournament.
So what do workers really want? Reasonably priced on-site childcare is a highly desired perk, as well as on-site pet care. You also can’t go wrong with a fitness center, an on-site medical clinic, or other amenities that can help people handle some of their personal needs during the workday. And when it comes to hosting events, focus on providing something that employees can’t easily get somewhere else. For example, you could bring in several food trucks every Friday with rotating, unique cuisine options for your workers to try.
3. Offer a variety of spaces for your employees
While most workplaces offer some private offices, the trend toward open office plans has meant that many companies have put more focus on creating bustling open spaces designed to encourage impromptu interactions. But after several years of remote working, people’s expectations and needs have drastically changed. In fact, one of the things employees enjoyed most about working from home was the peace and quiet they could find there, ideal for focused or creative work.
For some workers, readjusting to office life could have a very real impact on their ability to be productive. Because of this, it’s important to offer a wide variety of work areas and desk options so your employees can find the right environment for what they need to accomplish on any given day. These might include quiet rooms, privacy booths, outdoor spaces, and private offices, in addition to communal areas and meeting rooms.
4. Design your office to promote workers’ health & well-being
Aside from providing the right spaces for your staff, it’s also critical that you create an environment that enhances (rather than detracts from) their well-being. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into achieving this, and if you’re interested in learning more I’d recommend you check out the two main certification frameworks that have come into the spotlight over the past few years: the WELL Building Standard and Fitwel.
WELL focuses on 10 concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community. Fitwel’s “Health Impact categories” offer similar guidance and measurement tools. Both frameworks prioritize creating a space that your people will actually look forward to spending time in, because they know they’ll be provided with ways to move around (e.g., sit-stand desks), healthy food options, biophilic design elements (e.g., indoor greenery and natural light), and other features that have been proven to impact well-being.
Amidst the ongoing talent shortage, don’t forget to prioritize your office experience
Just like with any other workplace trend, it may take some time for companies and their employees to figure out how to navigate the new world of hybrid working. While fine-tuning policies and plans is one piece of the puzzle, forward-thinking leaders know that optimizing their office space also plays a key role in getting hybrid right for their people. I hope the four areas I’ve highlighted today will help you get one step closer to creating a great hybrid experience, because I’m confident this is the future of work — and in today’s job market, it can only benefit your organization to stay ahead of the curve.
Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know how your company is improving its office experience for hybrid workers!