May 7th, 2021

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Did you know that back in 2016, only 37% of U.S. workers telecommuted?

It makes sense: Flexwork options have been on the rise since leaders noticed the impact flexibility had on increasing employee efficiency and reducing employee stress. But the question today is, now that everyone has been working from home for 15 months, how do you get employees to actually want to come into the office?

How do you make the office workplace experience cool again?

Has the office lost its value?

March of 2020 was a game changer for the workplace experience. If offices represented business operations before the pandemic hit, the question is what they'll represent once it's over. Will the corporate office be synonymous with "work" again?

Probably not. Companies will return to the office. But that doesn't mean they'll be returning to how things were pre-pandemic. Many aspects of the workplace experience will be different, namely the physical space, technology, and work arrangements.

For evidence of this trend, you can look to several high-profile announcements of company return plans in recent months:

  • Last month, Google announced plans to start reopening offices as early as April of this year. Sixty percent of Google employees will return to offices by September, at least for three days a week — but the new flexible schedule will allow them to WFH (or wherever they work best) for the other two.
  • In a memo just last week, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon shared news of a mandatory return to offices by July for their entire U.S. workforce, which will be on a "rotational schedule".
  • Several Microsoft offices are now open and plans to fully reopen company headquarters in September. A letter to employees indicates plans to return are focused on hybrid work.
  • At the end of March, Amazon stated their plan to "return to an office-centric culture" as their baseline. The statement reads, "We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively." 
If return plans from some of the world's biggest companies are any indication, the average employee will probably come into the office for at least part of the workweek. And most leaders agree that while the future of the workplace experience is still being developed, the value of working face-to-face has never been clearer.

6 ideas to improve workplace experience in the office

Our employees have enjoyed flexible work schedules for years, so working from home (WFH) was common before the pandemic. Even back then, employees often expressed that some days they enjoyed in-person collaboration far more than working at home by themselves.

We like to think that's because the office workplace experience made it possible for people to share ideas and work creatively with other members of the team. There’s nothing better than that.

What will work for your office might not be the same thing that works for someone else, but here are some ideas to improve the workplace experience in your office based on what's worked for us in the past.

Remove friction in the workplace

Here's the biggest tip: Make sure the office positively contributes to an employee's day. 

That means it should be easy for employees to find the desks, rooms, resources, and coworkers they're looking for without a huge hassle. The tools they use shouldn't add more stress to their day — which can happen if an employee app doesn't connect with their other workplace systems.

Keep in mind that people are already familiar with certain scheduling and communication tools. If new workplace systems don't integrate with those solutions, it's problematic for the workplace experience and can be frustrating for your employees. That can deter people from wanting to come back to the office. On the other hand, integrated systems streamline the workday.

For instance, a space booking system that connects to your employees schedule and wayfinding tools makes life simple and encourages more employees to work from the office.

Celebrate personal and professional milestones

Nothing brings people together better than a celebration.

One way to make a difference in the office: Celebrate your employees’ personal and professional milestones. It helps build stronger relationships when the entire office is excited about something happening in a coworker’s life.

That might be a promotion, a big win, or something more personal like an engagement, pregnancy, or other exciting news.

We've been known to throw small baby showers in our offices. Sometimes our employees would get their fellow colleagues to participate in their gender reveal by collecting guesses from each employee on the gender of their baby. Then there would be a cupcake reveal to show who guessed correctly — boy or girl?

Find more reasons to celebrate together

Our team loves to celebrate anything we can, and when we were in the office, we made almost every holiday an in-office company party. One year, we went out and bought a grill just so we could BBQ and host a fun Fourth of July party at the office.

It was a spur of the moment idea, but it turned into such a good opportunity for everyone to take a break, celebrate the holiday together, and get more excited about being part of the team. Plus, it created some great bonds between colleagues and showed off our great team culture.

Historically, we've done fun stuff like a salsa-off for Cinco de Mayo, a costume contest for Halloween, and an ugly holiday sweater competition in December. The more participation the better, so poll your employees and see what they'd be interested in celebrating in the office.

Lighten the mood with food, music, and games

Before the pandemic, every month after our company "All Hands" meeting, we brought in food and encouraged our employees to stick around to munch and mingle and get to know each other a little better.

Because we’ve grown so quickly, we’ve found that it’s really important to take time out of our busy work schedules to provide some games and more opportunies for new employees – and employees from different teams who don’t have much daily contact with each other – to get to know each other.

We’ve found that playing music keeps our office positive and upbeat. We put speakers in the office that can be controlled from anyone's computers and created shared playlists, like “Throwback Thursday" that we would play for everyone to enjoy.

Everyone gets to hear some music they like, and seeing people sing and get excited about their song picks can be a lot of fun.

It's also common to see our employees take a break from work to play ping pong or a tabletop game (Bananagrams is a Teem favorite). 

Do something just because

You don’t need some big reason to do something nice for your employees.

A few years ago, our team brought massage therapists in and everyone got a free massage — just because. And even though it happened months ago, it’s still something everyone talks about.

Taking the time to recognize and reward your employees shows your appreciation for their hard work, and they’ll appreciate you even more for doing so.

Improving the in-office workplace experience, whether it’s offering a catered lunch once a month, celebrating holidays or offering other unique perks, will positively impact your office and make your employees wake up in the morning and want to come into the office.

Create a flexible workplace experience

Here's an important one: Support your hybrid workforce. Desk hoteling is a modern alternative to hot desking that opens the door for hybrid work without wasting space or resources. Plus, it gives employees more autonomy over where they sit when they come into the office and that's a big priority these days.

As part of the iOFFICE family of brands, Teem's workplace experience tools are designed to enhance employee and visitor interactions with the physical workspace. Get a demo to see how Teem can help you get people excited about returning to your office.

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