As of 2020, the world is facing its worst health crisis in more than a century. The COVID-19 spread at breakneck speed around the world, forever altering how and where people work. It made us rethink our goals, our vision, as well as our priorities. It also provided an opportunity for companies to pause, reset, and take a closer look at their working policies in this new era of uncertainty. Until now, the road to the “next normal” was still very complex.
Reimagining the workplace in a post-pandemic world
According to a recent survey from Envoy, 73% of people in the U.S. fear a return to the workplace could pose a risk to their personal health and safety. However, a Human Experience report in 2020 by JLL, a Fortune 500 commercial real estate and investment management firm, which surveyed over 2,000 global office workers, found that the majority of employees want to return to the workplace in some capacity, with 72% of respondents reporting a preference for integrating working from home two days per week. The transition to remote working has seen successful results and positive benefits, from productivity improvements to reduced travel time, wellness gains, and technology optimization. But we humans are wired for connection and a sense of belonging. Despite successful work-from-home strategies across industries, we still recognise that the office will forever remain a fundamental part of corporate culture.
As business comes surging back, workplace design is evolving with the mission to prioritise human and their wellbeing, safety and flexibility. People make the place. And people are the most valuable asset a business can have. During these unprecedented times, people have been exposed to greater flexibility and autonomy. They have put their needs first and are giving more consideration to how, where, and when they want to work. On the other hand, progressive companies have realised the benefit of having a human-centric workplace that focuses on how to create an environment that supports community, productivity, and company goals. Health and safety are the top priorities to ensure long-term employee satisfaction and strengthen business performance. With a new mindset of both employers and their employees, the workplace of the future will be versatile and hybrid, focusing on human-centric solutions.
COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation of the workplace by 5 to 10 years.
According to Dr. Marie Puybaraud, JLL’s Global Head of corporate research, who specialises in the study of human performance and the human experience at work, “COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation of the workplace by five to ten years. The distributed workforce we’re seeing now was always going to happen, but we were expecting a slower evolution. The pandemic simply sped up the timeline.”
So what do we expect to see with the evolution of the human-centric workplace? The traditional designs may not be suitable since we have a more flexible workforce capable of working from anywhere. We will expect workplaces to be equally adaptable and flexible. Dr. Marie Puybaraud emphasised that “there’s no going back to the old ways of working. Those who are courageous and proactive in reimagining their workplace to address changing workforce preferences will be the future leaders of business in a post-pandemic world.”
How to create a human-centric workplace
A human-centric workplace is one that revolves around its people and considers their specific needs. There are five factors that could define a human-centric workplace.
- Focus on wellness: employees who feel overworked or stressed will not do their best jobs, affecting the entire team. Work burnout or situations of isolation and demotivation are becoming very common, especially after the lockdown and the work from home arrangements. As we still look to emerge from the pandemic phase, employers should pay more attention to the emotional health and mental wellbeing of their people. Regular and direct discussion to reduce workload or provide advice. Taking care of employee wellbeing is essential for its own sake, but it also brings very tangible benefits for your business.
- Providing flexibility: Since the pandemic, the majority of workforces have benefited from the ability to spend more time with family, balance domestic jobs, and spend less time commuting. Workplace flexibility has become one of the key factors for job satisfaction for much of the workforce across the globe. Companies that want to attract and retain their people need to understand the top priorities of their current and future workforce. A new, flexible work model will boost the motivation and engagement of their workforce. More schedule flexibility enables workers to balance their work and home life in a way that suits them, ensuring they are able to enjoy quality time with their families and put all their focus when they are at work. Giving employees more ownership over their daily routine demonstrates trust in your company and helps them develop their time management skills. However, companies need to give reminders to get different schedules into a meeting on time and help employees stay on track and fully prepare for their meetings.
- Interpersonal Relationships: While remote working has many advantages, it has also created some barriers to developing positive relationships within teams. The hybrid, future workplace that employees will return to shortly needs to provide for dynamic interactions and focused group activities that encourage workplace banter and incentivize coming to the office. Rewarding individual accomplishments is one of the critical parts of making people feel valued but working towards collective team goals is just as important. Achieving a goal together strengthens the bonds between team members. Being part of a close team makes work more fulfilling and achieving ambitious results can serve as a powerful motivator. Include remote workers when setting up a team-building project.
- Office layouts matter: The layout of your office affects how people work and interact in it. Shared workspaces make it easier to communicate and work together. Separate work areas and offices enable employees to focus without interruption. They are for private one-on-one conversations, meetings, and group work. As a result, your office’s mix of shared and private focus pods, meeting rooms, discussion spaces, and social areas should reflect the needs of your human-centric workplace.
- Internal and external growth: In today’s competitive job marketplace, organisations have to promote from within and develop talent in order to sustainably scale. A popular reason why employees quit their jobs is that they feel like their growth is stagnant. Companies should provide learning and training opportunities as investing in your employees’ careers, your teams and overall business will also grow.
Given the changing preferences of the employees, it is crucial for companies to consider the needs of the employees as the backbone of planning the future of work. If there is a workplace environment that fulfills their needs for wellbeing, recognition, personal development and rewarding teamwork, they will thrive in their role and do their best. Therefore creating a human-centric workplace as a space for collaboration, productivity and greater flexibility is imperative to survive and thrive in the new world.