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Beyond the Built Environment

Our Take

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we work. According to a recent report by freelancing platform Upwork, between October and November of 2020, 41 percent of the American workforce reported working remotely.

As a result of the increase in remote work during the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about what the impact of giving employees flexibility has on the workplace. In a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey, 91 percent of HR professionals agreed that access to flexible work arrangements positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.

Despite the allure of flex work, however, after a year at home, employees do want to get back to the office. Besides distractions, non-dedicated workspace, and technology shortcomings at home, employees miss in-person interactions. According to a recent Eden survey, 85 percent of office workers are looking forward to returning to the office and 52 percent of office workers miss socializing with colleagues the most.

Moving forward, many employers will have to perform a balancing act to satisfy those employees who want flex work and those who crave an office setting. In order to handle this complexity, employers will need to invest in an employee experience that goes beyond the built environment. 

The employee experience has always been vital to a company’s success, but even before the pandemic, employers had difficulty getting it right. In a 2018 Deloitte survey, nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as very important or important, but only 22 percent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.

Creating an exemplary employee experience involves three elements: physical space, culture, and technology. These three elements will be integral to maintaining continuity and productivity in the workplace, wherever that might be. 

Cultivating company culture

Workplace culture has long been an important factor in the employee experience. In 2019, SHRM released a report looking at the impact of toxic workplace culture on a company’s bottom line. According to the report, one in five employees has left a job due to workplace culture. Additionally, employee turnover as a result of negative workplace culture has cost companies $223 billion in the past five years.

Source SHRM

Cultivating a positive company culture in a hybrid workplace model poses a challenge. It requires establishing firm policies that demonstrate the company’s values and clearly communicating those policies to employees at regular intervals. It also means providing regular opportunities for employees to interact and fostering a sense of community even when employees are working far apart through events or team-building activities. 

Additionally, in some ways remote work has had a negative impact on company culture. Many employees say they’re not working from home, but living from work due to increased pressure to constantly be on the clock and little separation between work and home due to space constraints. In order to maintain a positive employee experience, employers should enforce a culture that advocates work life balance. Modeling behavior that includes taking breaks, outdoor activities, meditation, and carving out personal time is essential.

Though culture is about more than the built environment, providing a space that facilitates team building is vital. Maintaining an office environment is important to ensure employees continue to have those organic office experiences such as spontaneous conversations and the meeting-before-the-meeting or the meeting-after-the-meeting moments that can often result in new projects or collaborations.

Making technology accessible

Prior to the pandemic, many companies were undergoing digital transformation to provide employees with more solutions to help them meet their goals. Now that unconventional work environments have amplified our reliance on technology, providing your employees with access to the right tools is even more important. 

The kinds of technology employers should provide will depend on their operation and workplace model. For example, it might be necessary for employers to provide employees with the technology necessary to set up a home office. It’s also important to create well-equipped in-office workstations and conference rooms that give employees incentive to come to the office. Additionally, for those employees who use high-tech equipment in a lab setting, making technology more accessible could mean providing 24-hour access to these environments so that employees can work during their most productive times. 

Technology has also become key to communication. In order to provide a positive employee experience, employers must ensure members of their team have the technology necessary to facilitate collaboration. This could mean investing in new applications and solutions that better enable remote collaboration.

Maintaining continuity and productivity

As employers juggle the needs of remote and in-office employees, maintaining continuity and productivity will be key. Though research indicates remote work hasn’t hurt productivity overall, it has changed the way we gauge employee performance. In flexible work environments, where managers and supervisors may not have constant in-person contact with employees, measuring performance has never been more of an enigma, especially for those teams that aren't governed by key performance indicators and outputs. Measuring performance is, however, essential to determining whether your company is operating effectively and your employee experience is on the right track.

One way to measure a team’s productivity is by setting short-term goals for teams to achieve. Companies should also look for other performance indicators such as customer or client satisfaction, which can demonstrate the effectiveness of a team. Client satisfaction can be a strong indicator of team performance because it signifies the overall health of your organization. The fruits of marketing, content, or other outputs can be measured via social media metrics and web analytics to determine efficacy.

Another way to measure performance is by looking at your employees themselves. Employee turnover can be an indication of low employee satisfaction. High turnover can also be an indication that a team isn’t working well together, which can impact productivity. Poor attendance can be another sign that your team isn’t working as it should. Employers need to examine ways to unify teams, engage individuals and empower them to perform at peak levels wherever they are located. 


Want to provide an exemplary employee experience that goes beyond your built environment? Contact us today.