Companies that are eager to get their teams back into shared spaces are looking for what amenity will prove to be the magnet that entices the workforce back. But the reality is – we can create amazing spaces with lots of “nice-to-have” amenities that enhance the experience, but if they are empty, they won’t make an impact. HOK’s Kay Sargent shares why people are the amenity that is the draw back to shared space.
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While surveys show that one-third of employees still want to work remotely full-time, many see the benefits of returning to the office. Shared workspaces are the preferred destination for many that are looking to reconnect with colleagues, rebuild social capital, foster learning and excel innovation. But people want to be in spaces that energize them. Returning to spaces that are depopulated and have “Saturday Syndrome” aren’t proving to be ‘commute-worthy’ because they lack the vibrancy people are looking for.
Many that want to extend the work from home experience are noted that they can be productive at home. Recent surveys have also shown that productivity remained constant or even increased during the early phases of the pandemic when many were working remotely. But there were drop off periods over time and many felt isolated and disconnected to their colleagues and the organization. It’s also important to note that productivity isn’t the only factor to consider. Many business leaders feared the possible adverse effects of remote work, including erosion of social capital and company culture; groups becoming more siloed, isolated, and disconnected; impact on diversity initiatives due to proximity bias; lack of professional development; decrease in the quality of work being done; and diminished mental well-being amongst the workforce.
54% of GenZs see the workplace as being more valuable after the pandemic and many are looking to benefit from being in shared space.
54% of GenZs see the workplace as being more valuable after the pandemic and many are looking to benefit from being in shared space. But to achieve that, people need to be in the office. This has proven to be a challenge as many more seasoned workers who have established networks and well-defined roles aren’t seeing the pressing need to be in shared spaces. The message their absence is sending to the younger staff is “do as I say, not as I do.” Not only does that reinforce siloes, but it defeats the purpose of those emerging professional being in the office. It’s important that we all remember what it was like when we first entered the workforce or took a job with a new organization, and how important access to others was, and is.
Function or Feature?
The war for talent and fear that many would resign if asked to return to the office full-time has driven most companies to adopt a hybrid model. In fact, 70% of companies are embracing a hybrid model going forward. But just because staff can (or want to) work remotely doesn’t mean they should. This begs the question, is hybrid driven by function, or is it a feature companies are using to retain their workforce? If it functionally aligns with a team’s predominant work styles and mobility levels, hybrid can be very successful. If well-implemented. But if it’s a feature, or perk, that doesn’t align with how people truly need to work, or is poorly implemented, hybrid could be the worst of both. We‘ve all heard employees complain about a long commute only to spend most of their days in the office on video calls that they could have easily taken from home.
We need to create spaces that are enticing and high functioning. The quality of the workplace experience has never been more critical. And if we are returning to benefit from being together, then we need to redesign the workplace, and perhaps more importantly – the way we work, to enable that. It’s essential that we rethink our work processes, and what we do on days in the office versus days we are working remotely. Fundamentally, hybrid is more an operational model than a workplace solution.
Space does matter, it’s just not the only thing, or even the biggest thing.
Space does matter, it’s just not the only thing, or even the biggest thing. But providing the right type of space is a key element to any successful work model. Your physical office must provide welcoming, inclusive spaces where employees can have experiences they can’t get at home. People are looking for opportunities to connect in-person with colleagues and have a sense of belonging. And while many are looking to take advantage of various amenities and services that they haven’t had access to during the pandemic, people are the real draw.
The pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink something we have taken for granted for decades – the way we work. We have a chance to rethink how we work, the places we do so, and redefine the true purpose of what those spaces could and should be. Attracting and retaining talent now hinges on an employer’s ability to meet the diverse needs of their employees while enabling their teams to do their best work, regardless of location. To be successful going forward, organizations must reposition the workplace as a destination that enhances how people work and enables people to reconnect, rebuild social capital and benefit from being together. Access to people is key.
I agree with many of the statements in the article, and yes people are essential for the workplace. But I cannot agree that people are an amenity. Amenities are not people.