Expectations Around the Future Work Experience

To provide a holistic work experience, Gensler’s Kelly Moore shares some considerations to keep in mind around practices, programs, and place.

As organizations have begun the process of bringing people back to the office, it is important to recognize that the pandemic empowered employees to reconsider priorities, resulting in shifting mindset around what drives a positive work experience. While some of these drivers were seen as trends pre-pandemic, they have since been accelerated to expectations.

At top-of-mind for many employees are health, safety, and well-being measures that create a positive work experience. Employees are evaluating organizations and their commitments to creating an experience that prioritizes these components. It is important to recognize many of these employees belong to the Millennial and Gen Z generations, and this should not be overlooked as half of the U.S. workforce is now under the age of 45, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the physical workplace plays a role in supporting an organization’s commitment to health, safety and well-being, leaders should also consider supporting through the lens of practices and programs. To provide a holistic experience that prioritizes these elements, here are some considerations to keep in mind around practices, programs, and place:

PRACTICES

Adapt to new emerging work patterns. Over the last two years of disruption, employees have learned to work and lead in ways in which they never have done in the past, and these experiences impact how we are working today and our work patterns in the future. One example is our approach to meetings. We no longer schedule travel time or buffer time in between meetings. Instead, we have been living in a reality of back-to-back virtual meetings that run long and do not give us respite in between. To adapt to this new reality (pattern), many teams have been scheduling 50-minute meetings versus 60-minutes, which allows individuals time to exhale, and to gather their thoughts before rolling into the next meeting.

Respect boundaries. We have gained an opportunity to become even more borderless than before, working and collaborating across times zones. While this has been a positive for our teams and clients, it can be a challenge to understand if some time zones are making more compromises than others. Are there ways that we can identify rotating work hours or communicating more asynchronous? It is also important to understand and respect the duality of visibility and boundaries on colleague’s calendars. As teams work to communicate schedules, if there is a reference to focused time or childcare time, do not schedule a meeting without communicating prior to understand if there is any flexibility. Most likely a calendar invite sent will only cause stress that could have been mitigated with a simple call or message.

Authentically build your social capital. The well-being of relationships has been stressed during COVID. As we slowly return to the office, and potentially continue a hybrid work experience, leaders will need to identify opportunities to authentically rebuild weakened connections. The first step in this journey is to assess the health of one’s own well-being. This is essential before having the ability to authentically connect with your teams. It is important to get out of relationship survival mode with employees. Connections should be proactive not reactive. Begin conversations by asking how people are doing. It’s imperative to authentically understand, and to stay connected to their lives.

PROGRAMS

Develop or evolve your current well-being strategy. Even if you have an existing strategy, it is critical to recognize that these programs should always be in development, understanding what is working along with what is not. Does your well-being strategy align with your organization’s missions and values? Engage your employees to shape and amplify your strategy throughout the organization. A robust, strong, well-being strategy can increase employee productivity, enhance engagement, and improve the overall health and happiness of the work experience.

Ensure program offerings are inclusive and readily available. Consider programs that include on-site, hybrid, and remote employees. Provide a variety of flexible tools and resources to meet different individual needs. Identify strategies that reduce time needed to participate while also increasing employee understanding of offerings so that benefits do not go unused.

Engage in social outreach programs. Employees today are looking to align with an organization that has a sense of purpose. Often social outreach will speak to the organization’s vision. Creating better outcomes for communities can also enrich relationships among teams. Community service can positively benefit individual health and well-being while allowing organizations to connect its ideas and values to the community.

PLACE

Create spaces that are safe and comfortable. When asked about returning to the office, we have seen health and safety as a top concern for workers throughout the pandemic. In our latest research we asked, “What would make you more comfortable going into the office now?” The top two reasons were health and safety-related: indoor air filtration systems and enhanced cleaning protocols. In addition, over half of those surveyed also rated operable windows and outdoor workspaces highly.

Provide new space types that prioritize well-being & choice. During the last two years, we have worked from our homes and have had access to new space types not typically or readily available in the workplace. We have had the ability to work outside on a nice day, or to step away from technology and curl up in nice lounge chair to read a report or just rest our mind. These same opportunities can be realized in the physical workplace through outdoor workspaces that blur the lines between indoor and outdoor, allowing people stay refreshed throughout the day. And through a variety of well-being rooms that provide space to find calm, creativity, or energy, depending on your needs for that day.

Recognize one-size does not fit all. It is essential to understand that the way two different people may approach the exact same task is completely different, and thus might need contrasting space types to support that task. This means the future workplace should prioritize health and well-being by providing a variety of flexible, adaptable spaces for collaboration and focus, empowering people to gather and work where is best suited to them. We must shift from thinking of work as a place, rather thinking of it as activities. By providing a variety of space types to support different users and activities, it can increase effectiveness, experience, and overall well-being.

Health, safety, and well-being are foundational drivers that employees are craving in their work experience. If organizations can engage their employees and get these foundations right, then the outcomes can be realized in the happiness of employees, the boost of culture, and the positive health of the business.

A happy and healthy workplace is the foundation for a successful business – Art Gensler

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