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Experience-Driven Workspaces: The Key To Making Employees Excited About The Return To Office

Apr 19, 2022

After two years of working from home, avoiding both bumper-to-bumper traffic and the hassle of dropping children off at daycare, many employees are hesitant to return to the office . In February,  Pew researchers found that 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home said they would like to work from home all or most of the time. While some still cited fear of Covid-19 as the reason why they don’t want to return, the vast majority — 76% — said it was simply their preference. While employees may not be eager to return to the office, employers want them back. Harvard Business Review  reported that more than 90% of employers are planning to adopt a hybrid office/remote work model for their “knowledge” workers — programmers, physicians, pharmacists, architects, engineers, scientists, lawyers and the like —  in 2022. But HBR added that it expects there will be “ numerous high-profile companies that change course and demand that employees return, full time, to the office.”  So how can employers get what they want without alienating employees and risking losing top talent? The answer is to give them a new kind of office space . “Employers want to build back the productivity, camaraderie and overall company culture that was lost during the pandemic,” said Wendy Spreenberg , founder and president of YES! Your Exceptional Space . “To do that they will need to design a new type of office that creates an employee-first experience.”  YES! partners with landlords, architects, developers and business leaders to create these types of experience-driven offices. The firm  recently released a white paper that walks people through the steps of creating the best post-pandemic offices. Bisnow spoke with Spreenberg to learn more about what building owners and companies can do to get employees excited about coming back. Bisnow: What are some of the challenges building owners and employers are facing with bringing people back to the office? Spreenberg: Companies are competing with the comfort and convenience of home and the benefits of having no commute. To overcome these hurdles, they need to face the challenge of how to create an inspiring and well-configured workspace. The whole experience from getting to the office to being in the office must continually inspire and delight employees in order to make it more appealing than working from home or another ‘third space’ like a coffee shop or coworking hub. Bisnow: How can companies rebuild their culture? Spreenberg: Bringing people back to the office and rebuilding culture requires companies to work with their employees to create a compelling workplace. They can do this by surveying employees to learn what they want and need now compared to before the pandemic, and then meet with them to let them know how their input has influenced the activities that will be planned on-site vs. remote, and any new configurations and changes to the designs of the office. The most successful transitions allow for employee comments, questions and feedback, then repeating these surveys every few months in the first year to learn what’s working, what’s not and what they can refine. Ongoing, it’s helpful to survey at least annually to keep it fresh and inspiring. Additionally, we see the best strategy is to ease into the return to the office, starting with one or two days a week and building up. Bisnow: What does the modern flexible workspace look like? Spreenberg: The overall plan will accommodate all the ways employees will work — focused, in groups and more casually. This means having work areas that allow people to sit, stand, lounge or stay in whatever position is most comfortable for them. There should be a mix of open spaces, conference rooms, huddle rooms for small teams and cafés and lounges to congregate in. To increase productivity and reduce burnout, we encourage employers to consider implementing “quiet rooms.” These are small rooms with soft lighting and relaxed seating, where employees are encouraged to disconnect from electronic communication for as little as 10 minutes as a break. The pandemic highlighted the value of prioritizing employee mental health and having these rooms can demonstrate that a company is committed to employee well-being. We also recommend creating more interesting features like content studios — for example, a podcast studio where the team members are interviewed and can talk about the company culture and build a story around it. The soundproofing and high-grade microphones this type of space requires are now more affordable and easily incorporated into your space. Finally, adding a splash of color can make a big impact. From a lobby mural that tells the brand story, to a paint color that is amplified by natural light, to creating restorative, calming spaces in huddle rooms and the quiet rooms, color creates the experience. All it takes is a coat of paint. Bisnow: How is YES! working to help educate organizations on how to build these types of spaces? Spreenberg: We are partnering with human resources departments to survey employees to learn their optimal work style and ensure the team has the tools and performance guidelines they need to be successful. We are also meeting with facilities teams to help find an office in an ideal location for employees and manage those service agreements. We are also coordinating with real estate teams to manage the budget allocated for a new workspace. Finally, we can collaborate with a design team to reimagine a company’s existing space to create the type of inspiring space that will make employees excited to come back. This article was produced in collaboration between YES! Your Exceptional Space and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content. Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to studio@bisnow.com . Contact Julia Troy at julia.troy@bisnow.com

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