The Evolution of Workplace
Four challenges and opportunities of returning to the office.
By Michelle Jones
Virtual Recruiting, Engagement & Retention
As the United States makes vaccinations more accessible, employees will return to the oﬃce with new expectations. For organizational leaders, the next six months will be a delicate dance of change management. A strategic approach will help reengage and retain your people, as well as create an opportunity to become a destination employer.
Nurturing a Vibrant Culture
The pandemic proved people can be productive away from the oﬃce. Digital tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom kept us connected and collaborating. Organizing your day became more intentional with scheduled interactions. There was less time for serendipitous conversations that typically happen around the oﬃce.
Like most of us, I felt personally productive working from home, but I missed many perks of being together: asking colleagues a question, the professional physical space and amenities, camaraderie and the deeper connection to people and our cause as an organization. The virtual world felt more transactional with structured interactions. I now understand from experience the incredible challenge of building culture in the virtual world where togetherness is a bit shallower.
Research shows employee engagement declined during the past year with Zoom fatigue and feelings of isolation. The evolution of workplace will integrate digital experiences with a vibrant workplace community. People missed conversations, stories, being together — all the beneﬁts of being part of something bigger.
Develop the Next Generation of Talent
Not every person has the same home oﬃce experience; it varies dramatically based on your stage of life. For example, a young professional may not have the space for a home oﬃce like a more experienced employee. This may explain why some employees are more excited to return to the oﬃce than others.
The next generation of talent wants to collaborate and be immersed in a social culture. The workplace community is where you feel part of the vision, mission and values of an organization. Mentoring and training are best in person where it’s easy to ask a question “just-in-time” rather than scheduling a meeting or phone call. This new generation wants these social workplace experiences along with ﬂexible work arrangements. Your remote work policy will have to bridge the gap as you navigate the “work from anywhere” world we now live in.
Creativity, innovation and the spark of a new idea happens best in person. Discovering solutions and making change require social settings. The past year, working from home, had an opportunity cost. While we all “got things done” it may not have been in the best way possible.
Be a Destination Employer
To emerge from the pandemic as a destination employer, create an in-oﬃce employee experience unique to your organization. Be creative about how you convey culture with stories about your vision, mission and values. Take time to explain what it means to be part of your company, with each interaction as an opportunity to experience authentic interactions.
During the past year voluntary turnover remained low as employees hunkered down for the economic crisis. As things improve they will feel safer to consider a career move. The recruiting race is heating up as vaccinations continue and the economy revives.
Tell your evolution of workplace story to strengthen your reputation as a destination employer. Now is the time for a planned, strategic approach to designing a truly special employee experience and sense of community we all desire. Your eﬀorts will drive recruiting, engagement and retention.
One of the best parts of working in the design industry is the people and the relationships (lasting friendships) we develop with colleagues and clients. Everything we do revolves around people!
Michelle builds strong client relationships from her exceptional design talent and unparalleled communication skills. She brings together people, space, and technology to create high energy environments. This allows the end users to not only do their jobs, but most importantly, enjoy the environment they work in.
Director of Interiors