What will the post-COVID workplace look like? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that employees have made it clear that they want greater flexibility to choose when to come into the office and when to work remotely. In a recent PwC survey on remote work, more than half (55%) of employees say they’d like to work remotely three days a week. If employers oblige, they’ll need to design a workplace that enables employees to thrive in all kinds of work environments.
Workplace leaders shouldn’t overlook their crucial role in shaping a new workplace experience and ensuring the new hybrid work model works. To be successful, they’ll need to lean into opportunities to collaborate cross-functionally, understand what employees need, and improve workplace technology.
1- Break down organizational silos
Every company has unique needs and should tailor its workplace experience to meet them. To devise a strategy, you’ll need the expertise of HR, IT, and Facilities. If you haven’t already, create the organizational structures this team will need to inform its decisions.
That may include:
- An owner – most organizations don’t have a single role overseeing this work. Some companies are creating a new position for this function, but this can also become a function for an existing leader.
- A steering committee – this decision-making body will oversee your team’s workplace experience strategies. It also helps set priorities.
- Working groups – these teams will put specific workplace experience projects into action (e.g., a workplace technology group)
- Reporting cadence – how often the team reports on progress and who they report to. This should also include how often the team communicates with employees
These structures will ensure your team can problem-solve from all angles. For example, the team may need data to understand which areas of the office aren’t used as much as they could be. This data sits with your Facilities team. But since you’ve formed cross-functional working groups, a representative of that team can bring the data to the broader group. Bridging data silos and building a team with diverse skill sets will expand the capability of your team as it designs new workplace experiences.
2 – Define personas to empathize with your employees
You may have understood what your employees’ patterns and work habits used to be, but they’ve probably changed a lot over the past year. Defining employee personas will help you understand their new perspectives and challenges. This will help your team design a workplace experience that works for everyone, regardless of where and how they prefer to work.
To create the personas, start by sending out a survey to your company. Ask questions that’ll help you collect data points you need to build out the personas. Include questions around the work obstacles employees face and what they need to thrive at work. When you have the survey responses, work with your stakeholders to identify a handful of groups with shared attributes. Here are some example groupings:
- Employees who go into the office 2-3 days per week
- Employees with both remote and in-office colleagues
- Employees who are work-from-home parents
Once you’ve identified groups, add demographic information to paint a clearer picture of each persona. Pull information like age, role, and location from your HRIS or the survey results. Based on the data you have at hand, set up interviews with people across your organization who fall within each group. Ask questions about their roles, behaviors, and attitudes about their work. This is your chance to dive deeper into the survey results and note the intricacies of your employees’ experiences. Use their answers to refine the personas. Employee personas will be a guiding light for your team as you optimize the workplace experience for hybrid work.
3 – Look for ways to optimize your space and technology
Today’s workplaces should provide experiential value for employees. A new Deloitte survey suggests companies with flexible work setups will “use offices to develop more emotional connections, facilitate collaboration, and create human experiences.” Design opportunities for employees to use the workplace in the ways that drive the most value for them. For example, one of your personas may be employees who go into the office a few times a week to build relationships with their teammates. To enable this, you may consider adding more casual seating arrangements, such as a cafe-style nook.
Employee health is another factor you need to consider when designing your workplace. Implement designs that optimize for safety and wellness in both the short and long term. Build trust and show employees that you take their health seriously with a formal health check that everyone must take to enter. Confirm that visitors are low-risk for COVID-19 as well by asking if they’ve had symptoms in your visitor sign-in. When your offices reopen post-pandemic, this may involve socially distant office layouts. Farther into the future, you may improve ambient conditions like lighting and acoustics to help your employees work comfortably.
Technology will play an important role in creating a flexible work experience. For example, you may set up a hot desk booking system so employees can reserve a desk on their way into the office. Technology can also enhance your workplace design and help remote employees feel more connected to the office. Upgrade your microphones and cameras in your conference rooms. Or add interactive whiteboard tools like Kaptivo. These tools help ensure frictionless collaborations between employees regardless of their work location.
Companies need to re-architect the workplace experience for flexible work. By partnering cross-functionally and designing with empathy, you can create great experiences for employees no matter where they work. Your team should be strategic about its use of technology and provide employees tools they need to be safe, flexible, and productive.