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How to re-engage your employees with workplace experiences

As the world re-opens after the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly every employer is facing the same challenge: How do we get people back into the office? The key is to use workplace experiences to create a sense of belonging so strong that employees don’t want to work anywhere else.

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Attracting people back

For most companies, bringing employees back to the office after Covid-19 lockdowns is seen as key for long-term talent retention and productivity. A strong connection to the office and colleagues has a direct impact on employee loyalty and engagement. According to BetterUp, workplace belonging is associated with a 56% increase in job performance, 50% reduction in staff turnover and 75% decrease in sick days.

Having people in the office is also essential for innovation, as Signe Adamsen, Group Workplace Development Director at ISS, explains. “Many companies have struggled with innovation during the pandemic, simply because people have not been together physically. It’s the energy and interdisciplinary sharing of ideas that spark creativity. These things happen when people meet up, in casual encounters and face-to-face workshops. You just don’t get the same level of energy or seeding of ideas in a video meeting,” she says.

But now that people have got used to the convenience of home working, how can employers bring them back? In a recent survey by Gensler, three out of four employees in the US say the top reason they would return to the office is the people. To bring employees back, therefore, employers need to create a strong sense of workplace community through shared experiences that promote togetherness and connection. Get it right and you will not only get employees back into the office; you will also see an increase in innovation and talent retention.

Re-engaging with your employees 

Signe leads a global team of 200 Experience Managers – all experts at creating a sense of workplace community. They design workplace experiences for a wide range of companies, from international banks to IT firms and local food brands. Signe defines a workplace experience as a carefully crafted experience that promotes an emotional connection with the workplace and colleagues. These experiences can be big or small – from giving out hot chocolate in reception on a cold day to Food Truck Fridays, free fitness classes or intercompany sports events. The best workplace experiences are fun, promote a sense of community among employees, and link to the company’s values and business strategy.

For a company with a strong local profile, for example, a relevant workplace experience could be a farmer’s market in the carpark or a volunteering day at a nearby charity. Companies that value inclusion and diversity could celebrate different cultures and cuisines in the office canteen. Workplace experiences could also be more directly connected to work, such as a workshop on social media for companies that are developing or pushing a new social media strategy.

“The key is to think strategically,” says Signe. “You don’t just make an experience for the sake of it; you have to ensure that it fits your company culture and strategic priorities.” Signe suggests creating a yearly calendar, including both regular events and one-offs, to make sure your workplace experiences match your company’s business cycle. She also recommends linking events to the world outside the office, such as local sports events or International Women’s Day, to expand the feeling of community into the wider world.

These experiences make a big difference. In employee surveys, workplace experience is directly connected to a sense of belonging and recommendation. An employee who values the workplace experience, therefore, will not just come into the office more often, but will also be more likely to recommend the company as a place of work to others.

Helping colleagues to connect 

Just like regular teambuilding events, workplace experiences encourage people from different departments and management levels to mix – a key ingredient in innovation.

Events can be designed specifically to break down barriers, such as a Meet the Manager event during lunch. But even informal events break silos. When working with one customer, Signe saw that many employees cycled to work. So she arranged for a local bike shop to come once a month with a bike repair truck. By making bike repair an event in itself, it created an opportunity for employees to mix and chat – many of whom wouldn’t normally interact during the workday.

Workplace experiences can also be used to alleviate a notable post-lockdown employer challenge. They can ‘nudge’ employees to come into the office on certain days, as Signe explains.

“Many companies want to give employees the flexibility to work from home a few days a week, but they are concerned that everyone will want to work from home on the same day. Workplace experiences can help them overcome that issue. By scheduling workplace experiences on the ‘less popular’ office days, they can avoid days when the office feels empty.”

“If companies can create a strong sense of belonging, they will get more value out of their investment in places. They will also increase employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity – and create a work culture that attracts and retains the best talent.”

Signe Adamsen, Group Workplace Development Director

Getting the most out of your investment in places

Getting employees back into the office after two years of working from home calls for more than just new social experiences. It requires creating a fully inclusive workplace, where hygiene, safety and wellbeing are all strong, where air quality is high and technology works smoothly, and where employees can work, meet and collaborate in a space designed to accommodate a variety of work styles.

But emotionally, the sense of community may yet prove the biggest draw.

“It’s the emotional connection that creates the strongest bonds to colleagues, the company and the company culture,” says Signe. “If companies can create a strong sense of belonging, they will get more value out of their investment in places. They will also increase employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity – and create a work culture that attracts and retains the best talent.”

If your company would like help designing inspiring workplace experiences that attract colleagues back to the office and help them reconnect, we’d be more than happy to assist. Please contact your local ISS office for more information. 

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