How This CEO Plans To Create An Office People Want To Return To
Research published in the US this week by management consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates found that just 3% of ‘white-collar workers’ want to return to the office five days a week – warning that employees will quit if bosses force them to quit. come back full time.
This echoes a Microsoft study last year which found that 55% of people considering a job change said the work environment would be a factor in their decision.
As organizations around the world debate how often, when, and even whether their employees should return to the office, leaders must seize this moment to rethink our work environments. What changes need to be made to the physical environment? How have our expectations of the traditional “office” changed? What measures are we taking to make staff feel safe?
These are just some of the questions I’ve pondered as Managing Director of one of Adelaide’s largest shared office and coworking spaces, the Adelaide Business Hub. As a hub with paying tenants, we’re an interesting case study: Establishing an office space people want to come back to isn’t so much a ‘nice to have’, but a business imperative.
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Here are some of the ideas I considered and some thoughts on how we can rebuild an office people want to return to.
Forget fancy offices, what are people’s basic needs?
Abraham Maslow proposed a theory that you cannot achieve true personal fulfillment until you meet your basic basic needs, such as feeling healthy and safe, feeling socially connected, and feeling others recognize your achievements. Only then can you reach the pinnacle of all that success means to you.
The theory applies when we consider our workspaces. According to Gallup, companies get the most out of their employees when they “orient performance management systems around basic human needs for psychological engagement.”
Employees and office occupants need access to vital services and opportunities while they are at work to feel that their most basic needs are being met. You must have access to washrooms, a place to get drinking water, breaks for meals and snacks, and a comfortable work environment.
The second most important factor is security. People want to feel physically and psychologically protected, and to know that their personal resources and possessions are safe. My point? You can have the fanciest desks known to man or woman, but if your space doesn’t meet your staff’s psychological and security needs, don’t even bother.
The advantage of running a 2000 square meter hub is that we can create and influence the bases. Why do you think so many hubs have a barista? Coffee is a basic necessity these days.
Deep work at home
If you had asked me three years ago what people wanted from a hub or a shared office space, I would have said that they want collaboration, but also quiet spaces and the possibility of work without interruption.
I think that’s changing. Personally, I like the idea that the home office can one day be a silent cube, while the big appeal of a hub or shared workspace will be what you feel when you get there.
It’s time to break the boundaries of the traditional office
Recently, Bryan Hancock, partner at McKinsey & Company, said, “… when you ask people what their number one concern is about returning to the office, it’s work-life balance. It’s the ride. And at the same time, you’re asking people what the biggest concern is with staying at home, and that’s work-life balance, because there’s no boundary between home and office.
Over the past two years, the definition of work-life balance has taken a major turn. Once upon a time “work” and ‘life’ was separate, but now it’s a duality. We need to break down the boundaries of the traditional office to facilitate this. There are some innovative models worth considering, but in the meantime, I’m considering childcare options and Pet Barn vouchers.
Why do people use space?
Think about why people were drawn to your workplace in the first place. What do employees like to come to work every day? What can’t they have at home? You know what your employees like. Give them more!
There are usually aspects of working in an office that make life easier and better for employees or tenants, so focus on those things if you want people to come back for years to come.
Take health requirements into account
Disinfection stations and regular cleaning schedules should now be standard practice, but what else should we consider to entice people back into the office?
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months researching air purification systems and ways to make our office a healthy environment for everyone. Our building is heritage and has no windows that open, so we can’t just “open up the place” and improve ventilation that way. We need to be smart and innovative about how we can create a healthy office.
I look forward to your ideas on how we can do this because I certainly don’t have all the answers.