Post-Covid Trend – Higher Awareness of the Employee as a Whole Person
Peer to Peer Roundtable Insight – The Most Significant Impact from Covid is the Holistic View of Employee’s Relationship to Work and Life.
In September 2021 we were delighted to host our first invitation-only Peer to Peer Roundtable discussing whether ‘hybrid working’ is the only way forward. Our selected-guests included more than a dozen executives from banking, insurance, tech, pharma, mining & energy joining in from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, and the US.
We shared new ways of thinking about the future of work, what ‘hybrid’ really means to an organisation and culture, and key factors that must be considered – not only to stay relevant and competitive but to create a better environment and life quality for all involved.
Throughout our discussions, the prevailing theme was the higher awareness of the employee as a whole person rather than just an asset to the organisation, and how this affects decision making on all scales.
This seismic societal shift can help us realise a more balanced and diverse world of work possibilities – if we are bold enough to take the first few steps!
So, what did we learn?
We realised that it’s all too easy to fall into old habits, such as thinking we should design for ‘desired activities’ in our work environments in an attempt to control the productivity of our people.
We need to move on from simply acknowledging diversity to providing workplaces and workstyle choices that are inclusive and build trust, mutual respect and shared responsibility for success.
The role of place in employee experience has changed
There seems to be a trend to decentralise larger HQ’s, opting for a ‘hub and spoke’ model (for want of a better term!). While there are many benefits and some pitfalls to this strategy the ultimate reasoning is to empower all levels of employees. Gone are the days of moving cities to take that leadership role.
Some progressive companies are piloting one end of the spectrum, dropping the traditional work desk all together in lieu of shared collaborative spaces only; however, the consensus was that employers still need to provide quiet focus spaces within the office. This brings up the question of to what level are organisations responsible for their employee’s experience outside of the office?
This question was re-framed by one of our peers:
“How do we define employee experience in a post-covid world and how can we deliver an experience that continues to fully support and allow employees to thrive?”
One aspect of this conversation drifted to “if we reduce our office space and subsequently the ‘in office benefits’ who will pay for [employee benefits] at home?” While some companies are a hard-line ‘not the employer’, others are investing real estate savings back into their employees to ensure their home environments can be equally as healthy and productive as the office.
Another interesting point was “who should own employee experience at home?” Frictions between the responsibilities of HR, real estate teams and finance have made decisions around employee experience complex to navigate.
Pay more attention to behaviour and less to tasks and activities
At the core of these decisions is of course, the data! Specifically, insights surrounding human behaviour and what really makes us tick.
“When you have a tension between fixed time-based spaces in offices and dynamic workflows, you see people filling the gap with scheduled meetings which is creating meeting fatigue, over-booking and a lot of anxiety.”
Another Peer shared their approach:
“We’re defining it as social productivity (spontaneous and scheduled) vs focused productivity. We’re less interested in what people are doing in the space and controlling that as it’s not actually helping anybody. We’re instead investing into our own planning tools that account for location and occupancy and allows for informed choices by both parties. [This approach] helps our people find each other and increases the probability of those [socially productive] connections.”
With more research being done on our relationship with work, workplaces of the future will continue to revolutionise our perspectives of interconnectivity, productivity, community, inclusion, and wellness.
None of these advances would be possible without the technology to collect and synthesise data, organise our thoughts and processes, and most importantly connect us to one another.
Hybrid isn’t just taking ‘work in office’ and ‘work from home’ and mashing them together.
Remote companies have specific protocols that have been developed over years to successfully build their cultures. Wouldn’t a unique way to define a new ‘hybrid workplace’ be to take a remote culture and build upon that, bringing those values into the physical space instead?
Our key takeaway from the September 2021 Peer to Peer Roundtable discussion with Clients?
We need to resist the temptation to design workplace experiences that respond to a binary perspective of work (at home = focus vs at work = collaboration) and that cater to people’s fears and insecurities. Instead we need to recognise the covid experience has shifted our values and expectations of our relationship to work and life at a fundamentally personal level.
Ditch the desire to control employee activities and focus on supporting spontaneity, human connection, and, most importantly, employee choice and responsibility.
Peer to Peer Roundtables operate by the Chatham House Rule to enable a free exchange of ideas, knowledge and experiences. All quotes from our Peers have been anonymised where required to protect commercial confidentiality and may have been paraphrased to improve conciseness for publication. A more detailed account of the discussion takeaways is published in a version of WPR Insider for Peer to Peer participants.
For one of our Professional Team to assist you in COVID Return to Work Strategies, please provide your contact details and one of Professionals will contact you within 24 hours.