Why workplace experience is more important than ever during COVID-19

The world of work is changing. As the workplace shifts from physical places to remote spaces, how do we maintain a corporate culture, positive engagement and support a sense of belonging?

Home Office deck

Workplace experiences serve as the glue that binds an organisational culture. Through service moments, employee events and spatial design, places can become more than just walls and desks – they become spaces where people can do their best, most productive work. And have fun while doing it.

But in a world where more and more professionals meet online, do we even need workplace experiences? According to Signe Adamsen, Head of Workplace Experience at ISS, we need it more than ever – and we need a plan for a hybrid model of on-site and remote workplace experiences.

A lasting impact on the future of work

COVID-19 has led to drastic changes in the way we work. Thanks to the world’s largest remote working experiment, we’re learning about what works and what doesn’t. Physical workplaces are often much better at creating healthy workdays for people, with more balanced, nutritious food services, a more ergonomic work environment, better air quality, and a whole host of other benefits. Employees working from home on a frequent basis might experience a lack of collaboration and communication, a feeling of disconnection and loneliness as well as mental and physical health issues.

“Unplugging after work, mental health issues and poor teamwork are just a few of the trials workers are now facing. This creates issues with employee engagement and can carry a real cost for businesses – both in terms of lost productivity but also loss of talent as employees look for new and more exciting opportunities.”

While the concept of working from home has gained extra relevance in recent months, the shift towards a hybrid model with a mix of on-site and remote work has been underway for many years – long before the pandemic hit. Advances in technology have played a big role in this development.

“Technology has enabled more flexible working conditions through virtual meetings and online platforms, so today’s employees have greater opportunities for collaboration and communication,” says Signe. “That builds a bridge between the home, the office and even third places – such as co-working solutions.”

For employers willing to offer remote work, there are huge advantages when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent. According to a recent study by Slack, 72% of knowledge workers surveyed want a combination of office and remote work. Another recent study suggests, that allowing employees the flexibility to work from anywhere can increase productivity by 4.4%.

This trend will need to be addressed by workplace strategies – in the short and long term. Demand will increase for great, individualised service experiences that support employees working at the office, at home, or maybe even at meeting hubs within the local community – places where the selection of technologies exceeds that of the home office.

For employees working remotely, experiences will aim to provide flexibility in where and when to work, support productivity, connectivity, physical and mental wellbeing, and ensure that corporate security guidelines are complied with, when working outside the office. It also plays a crucial role in nurturing a strong sense of belonging through virtual events, such as Friday happy hour meetups, quiz contests, yoga and other physical activities.

For the physical office, there will be a need to emphasise its role as a mutual arena for collaboration, communication, innovation and informal meetings to take place in many formats – addressing the varied needs of different communities and work cultures. 

Workplace experience doesn’t happen by chance. It’s very much architected and tailored to the specific client.

Signe Adamsen, Head of Workplace Experience, ISS Group

Connecting communities

Since the increase in remote work was well underway before COVID-19, ISS already had a track record with customers to leverage the benefits of this new working landscape. Together with our customers and service delivery teams, we focus on creating memorable workplace experiences that result in a happy and productive workforce – whether that workplace is physical or virtual.

Community-building is at the heart of our approach. From small-scale ideas to global initiatives, our Workplace Experience team takes a 360-degree approach to bridging the gap between “work as a place” to “work as a community.”

“We work with our customers to support their overall business strategy, creating a plan based on their needs and where they want to be,” says Signe. “Workplace experience doesn’t happen by chance. It’s very much architected and tailored to the specific client.”

As well as providing practical support with changing behaviours to fit a hybrid work culture, supplying home-office equipment and establishing productive collaboration setups, ISS advises customers on how to formulate new remote and on-site workplace strategies. The transition to a new hybrid approach to on-site and remote work requires careful planning.

The workplace, redefined

The way we work and where we work is changing and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the challenges we all face. Going forward, the workplace must be worth the commute — a human-centric experience where employees feel safe, healthy and empowered. It must be a place where design can nudge healthy behaviours – and provide a wide range of settings to empower each person to do their best work.

The KPIs will remain the same as before COVID-19: attracting and retaining the right people and making sure that the right people are productive – as well as cost efficiency, transparency, brand protection and consistency. However, organisations will need to approach these with greater attention to the health & well-being of individuals. Creating safer and healthier work environments after COVID-19 means also meeting higher demands for sustainability, flexibility and great curated service experiences, regardless of where people choose to work.

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