Here’s an overview of the factors driving change and the effects they will have at an organisational and individual level, with a focus on the measures which can be introduced to manage them. There are numerous steps organisations can take now to ensure workplaces are prepared to support employees as COVID19 restrictions ease.
Factors driving change
COVID19 changed the ways in which we worked overnight, forcing businesses to close their offices and employees to carve out an office space in their home. To assume however, that as restrictions lift and offices reopen, that working life will return to pre-pandemic norms will create false expectations.
What employees want and what employees expect has shifted, which mean businesses need to adapt or risk being left behind.
The most significant change is the dispelling of previously held attitudes regarding remote work. Throughout the course of the pandemic it has been made evident that 93% of employees are able to complete their work as usual from the comfort of their home, where previously only 29% of employees were given the option.
Furthermore, 84% of employees said that they enjoyed working from home, benefiting from the increased flexibility it brings, alongside other factors such as removing the need to commute daily.
This is not to say that the office is dead. Whilst 68% of employees reported an increase in productivity working from home, 64% of employees in the same study admitted they missed certain aspects of the office.
Businesses have struggled throughout the pandemic to recreate the collaborative and social elements of office life, with Zoom fatigue becoming an increasingly large problem for many.
Clearly, the office has a role to play in the future, but leaders need to recognise that as employees adapt to life under lockdown, businesses now need to evolve to meet these new mindsets.
Employee expectations for work post COVID19
In order to successfully meet changing expectations, organisations need to first understand the practical implications these shifts will have. There are two core areas which will be most greatly impacted:
Employee behaviour: Traditional 9-5 office jobs, their commutes and surrounding workplaces are a thing of the past. Now, employees expect to decide for themselves where, when and how to complete their tasks, safe in the knowledge that their decisions are supported and facilitated by leadership teams. Guaranteeing a great employee experience has never been more important.
Corporate responsibility: Office closures and prolonged periods of remote work have highlighted the importance of a focus on both physical and mental health. Employees expect their companies to step up their efforts to keep them safe. With 30% stating they wouldn’t return to the office unless they’re reassured that their building’s indoor air quality is at a safe level.
The question is, what steps can businesses take to meet these requirements?
How to facilitate change
Monitoring workspaces with occupancy sensors
As employees think critically about their use of the workplace, it is fundamental that the office space provided is correct. Measuring the usage of your assets enables HR and Facilities teams to assess which spaces are most popular and which can be repurposed.
Empty space is a sunken cost and frustration at not being able to access the spaces required would become a source of dissatisfaction amongst employees.
Furthermore, collecting workplace data allows teams to build departmental and role based mobility profiles which can be leveraged to tailor shift patterns and rotations, based on forecasted space usage. This in turn enable leadership teams to make evidence-based decisions regarding policy.
Additionally, monitoring occupancy enables teams to identify any spikes in occupancy and respond accordingly to ensure that the workplace remains safe.
Managing space with booking systems
The ability of employees to access the space they require quickly and easily will become pivotal to the success of workplaces moving forwards.
Booking systems facilitate this, allowing individuals and groups to decide for themselves when is best to enter the office and which space is most appropriate for the task at hand.
Additionally, a centralised point of control dictating which spaces are available is a direct communication tool which HR and Facilities teams can leverage to ensure social distancing measures are followed as spaces can be withheld and released as safety guidance changes over time.
What needs to change?
Adapting to and supporting changing employee expectations will require change in key elements of the workplace and its surrounding policy.
Gauging employee sentiment
Placing employee experience at the centre of workplace change means that managers need to be aware of employee sentiment and prioritise it as a key measure of success moving forwards.
Leaders will need to proactively engage with employees, understand their behaviour and have systems in place to react accordingly.
As employees decide for themselves when to come into the office and for what purpose, demands on space will change.
Organisations need to ensure that they are providing the right spaces for their employees to use and this requires an understanding of why people are coming into the office.
Policy, training and technology
Adopting remote work as a permanent feature of working life requires significant policy updates.
Teams need to consider how they can ensure that their employees can work just as effectively from home as in the office by providing the necessary tools, training and ongoing support.
Focus on safety and wellbeing
The number #1 priority as employees return to work is employee safety and wellbeing.
This means that it is vital that social distancing, occupancy limitations and track and trace policies are clearly communicated, easy to follow and highly reactive to any sudden spikes.
In summary, organisations need to work towards creating a framework in which employees are afforded the flexibility and agility to dictate the nature of their own work life, whilst remaining in control of the workplace in order to ensure it remains fit for purpose and above all else, safe.
The pandemic has drastically shifted employee expectations surrounding work and not adapting, risks being left behind. Do you know what your employees expect as restrictions lift?
Workplace policy needs to support individuals, enabling employees to decide for themselves where and when they work. Do you have the systems in place to facilitate this?
Integrating seat or room booking systems provides employees with the freedom to work where, when and how they want, whilst social distancing measures are adhered to. How will you manage these changes?
Employee health and safety has never been more important. What steps are you taking to guarantee and reassure your employees of their safety?
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