A valuable lesson can be learned from the retail industry when it was devastated by online shopping two decades ago. Since 2001, online sales grew by 300 percent, while department store sales dropped by 50 percent.
In order to compete, the brick-and-mortar industry had to adapt. In recent years, retail shops have focused on the customer experience in an effort to draw shoppers back to stores. These experiential retail efforts included leveraging in-store and events and services, prioritizing personalization and customization, and creating an overall experience that revolves around customer engagement and solving customer problems. As a result of these efforts, brick-and-mortar sales grew at an annualized 3 percent rate since 2016 and rose 6.5 percent the past 12 months.
As companies around the world find ways to draw employees back to the office, after nearly two years spent working remotely during the pandemic, they should take a page out of the brick-and-mortar playbook. Research indicates that those retailers prioritizing the customer experience have fared better. According to one report, customer experience leaders are more resilient during recessionary periods, with three times higher returns.
By adopting a tenant-first approach, employers can create a new kind of office environment that enables employees to thrive. In much the same way retail became experiential to draw consumers back to brick-and-mortar stores, so has the office by prioritizing employee engagement, offering vital amenities and in-office events, and solving employee problems.
Let’s take a look at how employers can provide a better employee experience with an experiential office.
One of the factors that really sets an office space apart is design. According to one study, workplace design positively influences health, wellness, employee satisfaction, and work performance. Whether it’s operable windows for better air quality, an indoor garden to reduce stress, or ergonomic furniture, office design should be both functional and visually appealing.
That’s a lesson coworking spaces have learned well. Unlike traditional office spaces where employees have customarily been required to spend 40+ hours per week, coworking spaces have to go the extra mile to entice members. That’s why design at the top coworking spaces around the globe is consistently recognized by top publications like Architectural Digest.
Workplace design is about more than just visually stimulating interiors like lighting, acoustics, color, and texture, however. It’s about analyzing your company’s identity, team roles, individual responsibilities, work processes, and work behaviors to craft a design that is an extension of organizational culture. Depending on the workplace culture, companies may want to prioritize elements like noise reduction, speech privacy, and visual privacy. It’s also important to consider design elements that aid both employee productivity and wellbeing.
For example, in order to stimulate collaboration, employers could consider innovative policies like giving employees the freedom to choose their workstation for the day. Unassigned seating arrangements have been proven to spark spontaneous interactions in open office plans. Or, if a company is focused on improving the health of employees, they could ensure common areas are centralized in the office, which forces employees to take a few extra steps to access them.
Speaking of health, the experiential office is about solving employee problems and one of the most pressing problems impacting employees around the globe is poor mental health. That’s why companies should prioritize providing employees with in-office perks that support their overall health. This can include basic amenities like a fitness center, sit/stand workstations, healthy snacks, filtered water and air, and a wellness room, but it should also include deeper supports like in-office daycare or even an onsite therapist.
In an age where the mental health of employees can make or break a company, it’s time to stop thinking of office amenities or health benefits as perks. Instead, amenities that positively impact the health of employees should be viewed as essential components of the experiential office. Whether an employee is struggling to juggle the demands of family and work, struggling to hit health goals, or dealing with the loss of a loved one, prioritizing employee needs ensures they can excel in their work.
That’s why mental health is increasingly becoming a priority for employers. According to one report, a majority of employers plan to invest in mental health resources by starting, continuing, or expanding benefits in 2021. The report also indicates that approximately three in four large employers and two in four small/medium employers offer at least one type of mental health support for employees.
According to reports throughout the pandemic, employees missed coworker interaction the most while working from home. One survey found that 45 percent of respondents missed in-person meetings with their coworkers. Additionally, 40 percent said they missed lunches and happy hours with colleagues.
In order to capitalize on this, employers should provide employees with ways to interact on a deeper level. Team-building activities and happy hours can feel forced, but buzzworthy activities are the perfect way to spur FOMO. With hybrid models giving employees more control over when they come into the office, employers need to make employees feel like they're missing out if they're not there.
This means offering a wide range of activities that appeal to a wider range of employees. Keep providing happy hours and fun and creative team-building activities for those who like them, but add guest lectures with sought-after speakers. Consider regularly scheduled offerings like massages or cooking classes spread throughout the week to keep a consistent flow of employees.
With the war for talent at an all-time high, employers must consider employee needs and create an environment that attracts and retains top talent. The physical workplace underwent a major change ten years ago when creative office space came into vogue. We changed where we worked and now it’s time to change how we work.
Interested in crafting an experiential office? We’ll help you design the perfect space for your company. www.raise.work