What Really Matters in a Workplace.


By: Cara German Holton
With contributions from Steelcase research

This past year+ has taught us many new things, like our home WIFI may or may not be able to handle multiple Zoom meetings at once, it’s not the same as being in the office and juggling the kids, fur babies and our spouse all while working can be enjoyable at times, but ultimately very difficult over time. But as our lives changed in March 2020, they’re changing again — and for the better.

Research proves workplace expectations and needs have shifted. During the height of the pandemic, 7 in 10 American workers traded in their commutes for a quick walk to their at-home “office”; however, the work from home experiment taught us not everyone or every organization thrives in that environment. The result of working in a drastically new way is that individuals are more in tune with what they need and expect in their workspace. Through multiple studies, Steelcase identified five critical areas that are now more important than ever — and some were even emerging before the pandemic.


 

"But as our lives changed in March 2020, they’re changing again — and for the better."

 

This past year+ has taught us many new things, like our home WIFI may or may not be able to handle multiple Zoom meetings at once, it’s not the same as being in the office and juggling the kids, fur babies and our spouse all while working can be enjoyable at times, but ultimately very difficult over time. But as our lives changed in March 2020, they’re changing again — and for the better.

Research proves workplace expectations and needs have shifted. During the height of the pandemic, 7 in 10 American workers traded in their commutes for a quick walk to their at-home “office”; however, the work from home experiment taught us not everyone or every organization thrives in that environment. The result of working in a drastically new way is that individuals are more in tune with what they need and expect in their workspace. Through multiple studies, Steelcase identified five critical areas that are now more important than ever — and some were even emerging before the pandemic.

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Safety. Feeling safe physically and mentally is crucial. There are some who had minimal changes to their day-to-day work routine during COVID, and on the other hand, there are individuals who haven’t left their cocoon yet. Safety doesn’t just encapsulate avoiding contracting the virus, it also encompasses the anxiety around lack of control. An employee focused on policies and protocols (and who will or won’t follow the rules) is not a productive employee.

Control. A different side of control is employees having autonomy to navigate their day how they see fit, and blend work and personal life. Work used to be 9-5, but during the pandemic, folks got to choose when and where they worked. Maybe on Monday and Tuesday the person felt most product at their home desk, but Wednesday and Thursday they opted for the couch and Friday the weather was nice, so they worked outdoors. As workers return to the office, choice will be crucial to satisfaction.

Belonging. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something and working remotely just doesn’t satisfy that need. After a long 12 plus months working remotely, community at work is more important than ever. Part of that is creating safe spaces for interaction and another part is leadership being more accessible.

Comfort. Finally, the furniture! Getting off the sofa or moving away from the kitchen counter and other uncomfortable working arrangements is high on the list for individuals returning to work. But only if their space and budgets afford them options. Accommodating employees in multiple postures is vital to creating a compelling workplace worth returning to.

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Productivity. We all know when you’re in the right (head) space, more gets done and the result is better. Open floor plans that enable head down space for focused work and designated places for collaboration were already on the rise. Now, workers are certain they don’t want to return to a cubicle farm — they want options for where to work and how to work. The balance between limiting distractions and addressing social needs (or me and we work as Steelcase calls it) can happen thanks to the right layout and furniture.

The office isn’t going anywhere, and if you look at the research, the majority of individuals want to get back to work. These workplaces have and always will be important environments vital to the lifeblood of an organization and the individuals who work there. It’s time to truly consider these five shifts in expectation — that were actually already taking priority — and rekindle the fire employees have for their workspace.

Want to get in touch to talk about your workspace?

Contact Cara German Holton

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