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Workplace design and employee experience

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ISS's Will Richards on how the pandemic accelerated the need to rethink workplace design

How the pandemic accelerated the need to rethink workplace design

Reviewing office design and giving employees enhanced “experiences” can help companies meet the new expectations of post-Covid working, says ISS Workplace Deployment Director Will Richards.

Even before the pandemic, workplace design was constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the workforce. For many, remote working has been a longstanding practice—but now, it has become an option for the vast majority of office workers.

The boundaries between work and home have transformed with hybrid working options, and expectations have changed. The in-office experience needs to develop and improve to compete with the advantages of remote work, as what used to be thought of as the office ‘user’ has now become the ‘consumer’.

And like all consumers, they want freedom to make their own choices. After two years of working remotely, they have taken more ownership of their working day, and many feel that how they work and complete their tasks is, at least to some degree, their decision. By engaging with and listening too your teams you are better placed to design a space that not only works but that your employees feel connected too.

Companies are under increasing pressure to offer people better workspace options to attract and retain staff, and a consumer-style choice will drive the agenda of companies who are trying to retain talent. Along with pay and career development and progression, flexible working schedules and standout office experiences will be crucial factors for perspective employees.

Experience must complement design

Workplace design plays a significant role in all of this. It could be as simple as how quick and easy it is to get home comforts like a cup of coffee or book a meeting room. However, I have seen examples of these routine activities becoming a military operation.

Where employees want choice, they also want variety. Previously, you might have had ten meeting rooms, all of which were identical in look and setup. Now, businesses are well-advised to consider what these rooms should look like and the purpose they will serve—and design accordingly.

I think this direction of travel will continue. Workplaces may become less spacious but more exciting and more experiential. For many, gone are the days of going into the office just to sit at a desk. The office has become a place in which to collaborate, learn, grow your network and be part of a community.

It is crucial not to take a cookie-cutter approach. Different types of people need different levels of social interaction to thrive. We cannot design the workplace of the future without understanding human behaviour within a specific space or in the workforce of a particular company.

ISS can offer companies data, intelligence and insights that support this process when they are thinking about these changes. How are your people using the space? What inspires them, and what amenities do you need to give your workforce a positive experience?

I always advise that strategy and culture drive design, alongside an understanding of what helps your employees to be more effective and engaged. A beautifully designed workplace will remain only that if it’s not aligned to a company’s purpose.

ISS - South Quay Office (6)

“ The in-office experience needs to develop and improve to compete with the advantages of remote work.”

Will Richards, ISS Workplace Deployment Director

Innovative thinking

Office design has inevitably evolved as the needs, uses and expectations of these spaces have changed. Facilities management is an industry that has previously been prone to transactional and somewhat robotic thinking. Now, it is creative. It would be remiss not to say that we learn from other sectors, and this is helping us to make workplace design far more innovative than it was pre-pandemic.

If you are considering changing the design of your workspace, where do you start? Consider what you want your office to stand for, what motivates employees to drop in—and how the time and cost of the commute can be mitigated by flexibility and experiences that give offices extra value. We can use our expertise to help you deliver that, making sure that the workplace is still the core of operations and driving better outcomes for companies and the people that make them.

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