The global pandemic undoubtedly led to one of the fastest changes to the workforce in history. Many companies had to make an abrupt shift to an at-home work model, but thankfully we are beginning to see employees slowly return to the office. While it took many people a lot of time to adjust, working from home has also made managers and employees think about changes that can be made to the workplace to increase happiness as well as productivity. For obvious reasons, many employees are eager to return to work, but management will need to find ways to evolve their offices to improve their employees’ experience in the office.
A major metric measured throughout the pandemic has been employee productivity. It was no secret that many employees felt unproductive at their offices before the pandemic, so employers are thinking of ways to improve this and make their offices better. Unproductive offices are crammed and have poor lighting, so companies are considering ways to fix this and make workspaces brighter and more welcoming.
Instead of being huddled in small cubicles, many companies are transitioning to a more open floor plan. While it is expected some sort of social distancing measures will be implemented for a while, shared workspaces may become more of a norm in offices. Of course, private meeting rooms will still be available in most offices, but an open floor plan means there won’t be nearly as much isolation as before. Many teams report that working together makes them more productive and innovative, therefore making offices happier spaces and companies more successful.
Many companies may also want to improve the ambiance in their offices for clients, too. Happier clients usually lead to better meeting results, meaning employees will be happier too. Having a comfortable, open-space waiting area with comfortable couches instead of just standing room as well as updated lighting and seating can improve both guests’ and employees’ experiences in the office.
It is important to note how much technology has also evolved over the past few years. Gone are the days of wires hanging everywhere – companies that have the resources to upgrade to wireless devices will likely choose to do so. Most desktop landline phones will probably be removed, as we have all been communicating via cell phones or our laptops.
Remember the filing cabinet? Well, it was impossible for anyone to access it when working from home, so everything turned digital. Document-sharing services and VPNs have become the norm to share files and communications, and this is expected to continue. Instead of physical whiteboards to hand-draw on, a lot of collaboration will be done on digital whiteboards and through other electronic means. Offices with enough budget may also see an uptick in artificial intelligence and biometric technologies.
Focus on Health
Moving around during work is critical, as it has been proven that getting up and moving is good for our posture, overall health, and making connections in the office. Sitting in a cubicle for eight or more hours per day and only getting up once or twice is bad for our health and well-being, so workplaces may begin to encourage more movement throughout the day. On a similar note, getting outside for some part of the day has shown to be beneficial to health as well. Offices may start implementing walking programs or hosting gatherings outdoors.
We’ve always known that our health is really important, but prior to the pandemic, many offices didn’t quite take measures to ensure employees were in the best health possible. Management may want to offer healthier snacks in the office, or encourage or offer memberships to apps like MyFitnessPal that can help employees track their steps and other health metrics. Also, prior to the pandemic, many people were making the shift to standing desks, so companies may also look into converting current desks into standing ones. Ultimately, healthier workplaces are happier ones.
More Emphasis on Feedback
As we slowly trickle back into the office, office managers and leaders may also want to implement more of a program for employee feedback. Prior to the pandemic, employees often reported that they felt unheard by office management and therefore were more dissatisfied with their jobs. Now that we have been working from home for quite some time, we all have solidified what works for us and what doesn’t. Relaying this information to office management and having management implement new processes and procedures may make the workplace more satisfying.
It is expected that office flexibility will greatly evolve as more and more employees return to their workplaces. Many employees were able to make their own schedules and work when it was convenient for them as long as they were still productive and successful. Now, spending time commuting and having set hours in the office may not be an attractive option for many. In fact, many people say that eliminating their commute was one of the biggest pros to transitioning to a work-from-home setting, so offices may want to consider not requiring it every day.
Ultimately, just like the abrupt shift to working from home, it would be very hard to abruptly return to the office. Companies may implement some sort of plan to “stagger” days that certain employees come in, or offer a first-come, first-serve sign-up sheet. Hours can also be made flexible so that employees can avoid rush hour traffic, or they can just come in when collaboration on a project is needed. In general, human beings like to have options and be able to take control of their life, so the flexibility offered through a plan like this may improve happiness and productivity in the workplace.
Overall, it has been proven countless times that happier employees are more productive and beneficial to a company. As we see offices starting to reopen around the world, management teams all across industries should think about ways to evolve their offices to improve worker happiness and productivity.