During this pandemic, I’ve had many days where I’ve longed for the office. Not only being in the office but also building them. The most exciting part of my job as a workplace leader was designing and building offices all over the world. Before the pandemic, I would spend weeks with teams learning how the office could enhance their employee experience, foster more collaboration, and enable innovation.
Yet, despite the effort, there were still some employees who’d walk straight to their desk and spend their day without talking to anyone other than on Zoom or Slack. It made me think, how can we create a space that engages every employee, not just some? With companies adopting a hybrid work model, employees will have the option to work from home, a coffee shop, a coworking space, or on-site. With this flexibility, employees will choose to work where they feel welcome and invited.
As workplace leaders, we now have to exceed workplace experience standards. We need to win against the “third workplace” and provide a greater reason for our employees to choose the workplace. So how can we do that? It starts with making a great first impression.
Making a good first impression
Hotels, coffee shops, and coworking spaces have all raised the bar when it comes to the customer experience. It’s no surprise that many people choose to work from these locations. They make each part of the experience memorable—from booking a desk to welcoming guests with drinks and having a place to store bags. To compete with offerings in the hospitality industry, you need to build an engaging workplace experience. That starts with your employees’ first impression of the workplace: the lobby.
It’s often overlooked by companies, but a person’s first impression of the workplace is critical to attracting and retaining talent. If an employee steps into a stale, fluorescently-lit lobby, morale and excitement will dwindle. They’ll choose to work at the coffee shop down the street instead.
Double down on the lobby area to make it warm and inviting. It will determine how your employees will feel for the rest of the day. This doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but the process of leaving and entering your lobby should be seamless.
Here are a few tips you can implement from the hospitality industry:
- Make sure the front desk is near the entry so a member of staff can welcome people as they arrive. This creates a warm and inviting environment.
- Make sure your front desk staff has the tools to find out who’s coming into the workplace so they can greet people by name.
- Hand out snacks, refreshments, and books to people to start or end their day on a sweet note.
- Add colors, cushions, and comfortable seating so people can hang out and chat.
- List the events or programs coming up in the workplace so people desire to return.
If you haven’t thought about implementing a workplace platform, this is your chance to roll out a visitor management system for your employees and guests to use. You can use these tools to create an on-brand experience, and let your employees know they are entering a safe and welcoming environment.
Borrowing tips from the hospitality industry to compete with the “third workplace”
Ask yourself, what makes your favorite coffee shop special? Do they know you by your name? Are they playing good music when you walk in? If restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops pay attention to the small details of people’s experiences, why shouldn’t companies?
To ensure your workplace inspires employees to come back often and regularly, try these tips:
- Make every day feel special and surprising. Many restaurants and coffee shops change their menus on a regular basis and have specials based on holiday recipes and cultural traditions. Be aware of traditions and rituals among your workforce. Include them in your employee experience for greater diversity and inclusion.
- Bring seasons to your workplace. Workplaces can feel lifeless when there’s no change in season or acknowledgment of the change in nature. Borrow from hotels and retail stores that have seasonal collections and decor.
- Make your workplace a retreat from the world. Create spaces where employees can reconnect with their purpose and find the motivation to do their best work. Borrow from yoga studios and meditation centers that offer spaces that are nourishing, comforting, and that allow visitors to recenter themselves.
We live in an on-demand world where people can easily book a table at a restaurant, a spot at the yoga studio, and now a desk at their local coworking space. In the shift to a hybrid workplace, employees will demand greater control over their work schedules and workspace, and it’s the role of workplace leaders to foster this trend.
The future of work is full of promises but the post-pandemic workforce is also more complex. Employees increasingly choose to work from home or from engaging “third workplaces.” The workplace needs to compete with spaces like coffee shops, coworking spaces, and restaurants that know how to create a welcoming environment. For workplace and HR leaders, this is an opportunity to attract employees by offering a more enticing workplace.
At the end of the day, employees choose to work for a company because they want to contribute to the company’s mission, support the company’s values, and are empowered to make an impact. If companies adopt the hospitality mindset and create spaces that are welcoming and functional, they’ll have a better chance to bring employees together often and regularly.