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The employee experience has taken on a new meaning in today’s hybrid workplace. After more than a year of working remotely, many organizations are recognizing how much the office environment contributed to employee productivity, company culture, recruitment, and retention.
At the same time, they acknowledge more of their employees’ work lives will continue to take place outside the office. There is greater awareness of the digital employee experience in addition to the physical one.
To gain more insight into how the employee experience is changing and how companies can adapt, independent research and consulting firm Verdantix compiled a report based on interviews with experts. They included global leaders of workplace design, real estate, facilities management, technology, and more.
While we encourage you to read the full report for an in-depth analysis, here are a few of the highlights.
A great employee experience is a key driver of business performance. Gallup research has found teams with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable than companies with less engaged employees. They also have less absenteeism and lower employee turnover. The employee experience is also essential to building a positive company culture and a high-value brand.
Researcher and author Jacob Morgan based his employee experience definition on three factors: the physical environment, technology, and culture, which is typically influenced by company policies.
However, workplace leaders and department managers face new challenges in today’s more distributed environment.
It can be more difficult to keep employees engaged when you don’t see them every day. And while many report high productivity working remotely, the lack of in-person interactions has weakened their relationships with colleagues. At a broader level, this has negatively impacted company culture for many organizations.
When employees don’t feel strongly connected to their coworkers and their company at large, they often become disengaged and look for other opportunities.
This was one unfortunate consequence of the pandemic. Verdantix notes nearly 3.4 million U.S. employees voluntarily left their jobs in July 2020.
Remote work also hindered employees’ ability to access workplace services and amenities they once enjoyed. At the same time, the isolation and additional stress many employees are experiencing have brought mental health concerns to the forefront.
The office still plays an important role in the modern employee journey, but workplace leaders need to re-evaluate its purpose.
That means considering how individuals’ needs have changed depending on their role, the length of their commute, and how they prefer to structure their day. It also means ensuring your office design, technology, and policies continue to support all types of employees, including:
Your office design should appeal to employees from the moment they begin the hiring process. Once they’ve been onboarded, they should be able to choose from a variety of different spaces depending on their needs. They should be able to reserve a desk or a small quiet room, book a larger meeting room, or gather with others in informal huddle areas.
They should also have access to amenities like an on-site gym or cafeteria without worrying about those shared spaces becoming overcrowded. They should have the option to grab a sandwich and take it with them or enjoy a longer lunch at a table with colleagues.
And they should have self-service, mobile technology that makes it easy for them to find what they need fast and reserve it.
For those who are fully remote due to location, you may need to consider how to make their employee experience more enjoyable. That might mean giving them stipends for ergonomic office furniture, wellness benefits like gym memberships, or social events they participate in closer to home.
If they find it difficult to work from home, they may want the option to go to a coworking space or a satellite office location.
Verdantix offers several recommendations for HR and workplace leaders who want to ensure their employee experience remains relevant in this new era.
Executive leadership and human resources professionals play a crucial role in establishing expectations for how, when, and where work happens. It’s important to revisit these policies regularly to ensure they allow for flexibility without hindering performance.
Over the past year, most employees have proven they are capable of working effectively outside the office, and many will want to have that option in the future.
A written remote work policy establishes clear guidance so both employees and managers understand what is expected.
If you don’t have a formal policy or haven’t revisited yours since before the pandemic, now is the time to do so.
You should also take a closer look at company-sponsored activities and consider how to make them more inclusive for remote employees. Instead of hosting frequent happy hours that only on-site employees can attend, you might want to consider company events that are less frequent but more meaningful. Remote employees could make plans to attend annual or semiannual workshops, training sessions, or larger company outings if they know about them ahead of time.
The new employee experience is highly dependent on individual needs. While informal conversations and employee surveys can offer some insight into what your workforce wants, analyzing their actions can be more revealing.
Many employees may say they plan to use the office four days a week now, but once you have fully reopened, the data may tell a different story. You may only have a third of your workforce reserving desks daily, for instance, while the majority only needs them two or three days a week.
Based on what you learn, you can adjust your workplace design and amenities accordingly. If sensor data shows you the office is only 15% occupied on a typical Friday, you may want to consider designating them as company-wide “remote” days or hosting company events on those days to encourage more attendance.
To gather the data to make these decisions, however, you need the right technology in place. Data from occupancy sensors can be incredibly valuable, but only if you can see it in relation to your individual buildings, floors, rooms, and desks. You also need to be able to act on that data quickly by reconfiguring floor plans to optimize space utilization.
If you notice your largest conference rooms are rarely used, you can use space planning software to convert them into smaller, reservable workspaces.
Collecting this data and making the most of it should be a collaborative effort between your HR, IT, facilities, and corporate real estate teams.
When most employees spent the majority of their time in your office, collaboration was as simple as walking into an available meeting room. Today, it involves more coordination between employees in different locations and time zones.
To make this easier, employees need mobile solutions that help them find and reserve workspaces or meeting spaces when they need them, invite others, and get tech support at their fingertips.
They also need better solutions for asynchronous communication so employees can keep projects moving forward in the time between meetings. Project management software and communication platforms like Slack are two types of asynchronous digital workplace tools.
Once you have an accurate understanding of employees’ needs, preferences, and patterns, you can tailor your workplace design and offerings to them.
For instance, you might consider adjusting your cafeteria menu to encourage employees to sit down and eat if you find too many people are eating alone at their desks.
Creating more inviting outdoor spaces and recreational areas where employees want to spend time together can also encourage more interactions.
Using occupancy sensors and reservation software can help you monitor how employees are using the workplace so you can justify making changes.
In addition to providing a more tailored employee experience, it can also help you consolidate office real estate to achieve significant cost savings.
Traditional integrated workplace management systems were designed primarily to manage buildings, not people. Today’s leaders need solutions that put employee needs at the center of space planning and all aspects of workplace management.
That’s why iOFFICE has introduced the first integrated experience management system (iXMS) built specifically for this purpose.
It’s built to connect workplace leaders and employees, meeting the needs of both and creating a continual feedback loop between them. It includes a mobile app that empowers employees to navigate their workplace and access everything they need to be productive — whether it’s finding where their colleague is sitting, reserving a desk near them, or requesting tech support.
Our iXMS also allows for ongoing optimization by integrating with sensors and other technologies to give you a full picture of how employees use your workplace.
Based on these insights, you can reconfigure workspaces, plan moves, and make future real estate decisions all from a single platform.
For more predictions about the future of the employee experience and how to create a great one, download the full Verdantix report.
Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.