March 10th, 2021

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During the pandemic, we were reminded of the importance of connection. In terms of work, that meant staying connected with colleagues, being able to connect to the systems and information needed, and strengthening the connection felt with the organization as a whole.

After a year of disruption, the light at the end of the tunnel is more visible as vaccinations are being distributed around the world. It’s time to look ahead to the future of the workplace experience. But what exactly does that mean for your company?

To answer that question we’ve gathered some of the top insights from leading experts shared during recent industry events. Their predictions can help shed some light on what the future holds so you can better prepare for where your workplace is heading.

An overview of predicted changes in workplace trends

There’s no going back on the digital transformation achievements we’ve gained over the past 12 months, though the hybrid movement is another workplace trend pointing towards a more flexible future.

Workplace technology should follow suit, as employees continue seeking out more efficient ways to get their work done to free up time spent on tedious tasks for more rewarding achievements such as professional development, building connections, and staying focused on higher-level projects.

The nature of the office will continue to be influenced by digital advancements, familiarity with working remotely, and an acute awareness of the social aspects of the physical workplace.

What’s the current state of the workplace experience?

New and increasing concerns

Today’s workforce has faced unprecedented challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Parenting challenges have multiplied, and many employees feel exhausted and overwhelmed from all the responsibilities they have to manage from home each day. Some may have the additional stressors of health-related concerns, loss of a loved one, anxiety about job security, financial hardship, among other things.

Pre-pandemic, it was sometimes challenging for employees to juggle work, family, social lives, and hobbies. Now, there are new areas that have been complicating their lives.

Right now, and into the future, people are eager to take advantage of opportunities to choose work environments that support flexible schedules rather than returning to a single designated cubicle day after day or staying cooped up at home indefinitely.

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Digital workplace trends and experiences

Technology has been used to bring people together online, to focus on collaborating while remote, and to encourage more purposeful conversations with managers, company leadership, and peers. While new tools aid connection, employees still expect some form of in-person collaboration.

Virtual meetings aren’t a perfect substitute for the spontaneous and serendipitous interactions that occur more naturally in the office. In-person collaboration opens the door for unplanned conversations that spark creativity, in turn offering more opportunities for innovation.

Key hallmarks of a modern workplace

The future of your workplace comes down to having the tools in place that support your hybrid workforce. Employees working remotely have different needs than office-based workers — and it’s important to understand what those are so your company can avoid setbacks that can hurt productivity when you welcome employees back.

The modern workplace should be designed to encourage connection. It also needs to reflect a more open and autonomous experience, one that allows “on-the-go” utility so their mobility isn’t limited to a single location.

Before you return to the workplace, you need to have your communication strategy ready. How well you communicate your reopening plans will impact how employees receive the message.

How should workplace leaders manage these changes?

Over the past twelve months, people have become more mindful of their work experiences, and this will inevitably extend to the physical workplace.

Ask the right questions

During the Future Offices event, Michele Crane — the Chief Architect for the City of Boulder, CO — helped break down what questions to ask while contemplating your new priorities as you adapt your workplace:

  • How much change can people tolerate?
  • What do we value about the office?
  • How do we share space?
  • What truly supports a hybrid culture?
  • How do we preserve a sense of safety and security?
  • How do we preserve belonging?

Have clearly defined roles

One thing thing that has been a game-changer in FM, according to Bobby Vasquez, editor in chief of IFMA’s FMJ, is communication.

During their World Workplace Rountable Discussion, “Isn’t it Obvious? No - What to Communicate and When,” Bobby asked panelists how they’re navigating the shift from communicating needs and instructions through IT and HR now that “FM is more of a transparent, two-way street.”

In response, R-Zero CEO Grant Morgan suggested having very clearly defined roles and responsibilities for workplace experience, HR, and other departments. That's so you can avoid missed expectations, fingers pointed in different directions, or any question marks as cross-functional teams handle these complex projects.

Use the right metrics

When planning space today and beyond the pandemic, consider how your space needs and utilization are changing. If you’re becoming more flexible, you won’t use the same metrics that you did to in the traditional workplace.

In their Space Management Benchmarking webinar, IFMA’s FM Research & Benchmarking Institute (RBI) discussed the impact COVID-19 had on tracking metrics. Their tip was this: “We want to make sure that we use the right approach when it comes to analyzing the efficacy or the effectiveness of such workspaces in terms of employee feedback and people productivity.”

Evaluate digital workplace trends that benefit your team

After the social isolation, mental overload, and physical constraints present during the previous year, employees are craving the freedom to choose their environment, and harness the benefits of user friendly systems and flexible workplaces.

It’s up to you and other workplace leaders to share a renewed sense of connection. That way, employees can keep working towards a shared vision whether they’re at home or booking a desk in the workplace.

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To achieve this, Case Ronolfson, Sr. Director of Facilities Management at American Institutes for Research, advises, “We have to accept that we are, in fact, in control of our destiny.”

Later in that conversation during the Workplace Innovator session of IFMA’s World Workplace Event, Operations Group Manager at General Motors Darrell Rounds shared, “100% virtual has made my team become more engaged in a whole different way — a digital way.”

Employees are excited about the freedom that comes with flexible options, but they also look forward to in-person experiences. What’s important is that your environment capitalizes on what you’ve learned throughout the past year.

And that’s a great thing for everyone.

To learn more about how Teem’s employee experience app can help your company adapt during this critical time, request a demo with our workplace experts.

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