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Category: <span>Return to Office</span>

Many organizations took a phased approach to rolling out a new hybrid work model. Likely, their offices reopened on a rolling basis and additional policies were put in place as restrictions eased. Your organization may have also experienced many different phases or iterations of the hybrid work model up to this point.

Now’s the perfect time to reflect on hybrid work. What is the current state? For example, is the office open, but folks are working primarily remotely? Or, are staff required to attend the office a certain number of days each week? 

In some high-profile cases, like JP Morgan and Apple, a return to office mandate caused resistance from employees. Encouraging workers to attend the office is important, however, it needs to be done delicately to preserve employee morale and experience.

Understanding the Current State

Before encouraging workers to attend the office, understand if there is an issue with employee engagement at the office. Using workplace management software can help you gather analytics to determine if your space is being used as intended. Metrics such as occupancy, bookings, and no-show data can help determine if there is low attendance at the office.

Get a complete picture of the data to understand if there is a discrepancy between your policy and reality. What does the employee feedback tell you? Do employees want more support in attending the office? Or, is it about launching a new strategic plan to get the office higher use?

Strategies to Encourage Working at the Office

If the data reveals low office attendance, follow these suggestions to encourage in-person work.

1. Make The Office an Attractive Place to Work

Are employees not attending the office because it’s difficult to focus in the space? Are they experiencing issues collaborating with their coworkers in-person? Make it possible for teams to attend the office and improve the company culture. 

Does your workplace management solution allow colleagues to book space near one another? This could be a great way to encourage entire teams to attend the office. As well, communicate to your colleagues or team leaders to encourage teammates to work together from the office.

Get employees excited about coming to the office by hosting team building activities or other collaboration opportunities. Events like a happy hour, special speaker, or presentation allow team members to see value in visiting the space. 

Finally, enlist some perks from attending the office for employees. Perhaps it’s a free lunch, implementing a dog-friendly office, a lunch-and-learn, or public transportation reimbursements for their commute. Make sure that there is a clear benefit to employees when they attend the office, and reward them for doing so.

2. Embrace Flexibility

Another reason that employees may not be attending the office is that they require more flexibility. Working in-person can be more rigid in comparison to working remotely. 

Ensure that working in-person maintains a level of flexibility. For example, employees should have the ability to check in or out of the office as needed. This gives them the freedom to drop in to the office as they please. 

Maintain a level of choice and flexibility for employees to determine their own schedule. Research suggests that the benefits of attending the office can be realized in as little as one office visit per week. Forcing employees to attend the office 2 or 3 times per week may not increase their connection to the company. Instead, it can take away from the flexibility and work life balance they value while working from home.

3. Incorporate Employee Feedback

Ensure that the employee voice is reflected in encouraging staff to attend the office. Implement the feedback that you’ve gathered in a timely manner and continue to evaluate the effectiveness. Perhaps there are common concerns or hesitations about hybrid work that can be resolved. A town-hall forum or policy update could help address this.

Run employee pulse surveys before and after making policy updates! Verify if the results reveal that staff are attending the office more frequently. If your efforts are not yielding the desired outcome, perhaps further investigation can identify the cause for lack of office attendance.

Hybrid Work Strategies

Ensure that your staff clearly understand the benefits of working in the office. Use a workplace management solution to get employees excited about coming to the office. As well, as an administrator, you can gather data on office usage. Use this as an opportunity to right-size the office space for how employees are using it.

Guarantee that you are addressing any employee hesitations about returning to the office with empathy and understanding. Make it worthwhile for employees to attend the office to participate in the hybrid work model.

Hybrid work models are on the rise due to the flexibility and support that they can provide businesses and employees. If hybrid work is possible for your organization, consider implementing the model to improve upon company culture, employee satisfaction, and employee retention. Workers can experience great benefits with hybrid work models, and in fact, a recent Accenture report reveals that 83% of workers prefer them.  

Although you may encounter certain hesitations from employees while implementing a hybrid work model, with the right planning and set of tools, these challenges can be easily overcome. 

Here are five common hybrid work hesitations, and how to conquer them:

1. Employees returning to the office

Whether it be for the comfort, convenience, or consistency, some employees may prefer remote work and be hesitant to return to work in-office. In fact, a recent survey finds that 65% of workers want to work remotely full time. Perhaps these individuals don’t see the value in commuting to come into work or are worried about the possible health risks.  

If this is the case, it is up to your organization to ensure that your workers feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged to come into the office. Employees should be offered the flexibility to come into the office as they please, with opportunities to be both social and productive. They should be advised to work collaboratively and arrange for the best days to meet their team members and optimize time spent in the office. Nspace’s “Find a Colleague” feature can help employees arrange to work with each other in office, making effective use of office space. 

The right workplace management solution can mitigate health risks with the use of self-assessments and contact tracing, allowing hesitant employees to feel comfortable taking advantage of the office. Requiring employees to assess the status of their health before entering the office can help limit the potential spread of illnesses. The contact tracing feature also monitors who enters the office and when, allowing you to identify possible exposure and keep employees safe.  

2. Redesigning office space

When it comes to hybrid workplaces, it can be challenging to redesign the office in alignment with its new purpose.   

The new role of the office is centred around providing a social space for collaboration and creativity, rather than being a hub with assigned seating. Your office needs to be open concept and flexible, with a wide array of spaces based on different needs, such as a mix of collaborative, open areas and quieter workspaces for independent work.  

With these new collaboration environments, employees will need a tool to easily book workspaces. This way, they can come into the office with other team members for collaborative work and be guaranteed the space to do so. They can make use of office space when required, and work remotely when they need to concentrate on independent tasks, giving them the best of both worlds.  

3. Collaborating across unique schedules

Occasionally, the flexibility that hybrid work brings can come with some confusion.  This can be especially difficult when you are trying to connect with remote and in-office workers at the same time. For instance, a possible hybrid work challenge is a lack of communication during meetings that can cause remote employees to feel distant or left out of the conversation. 

Hybrid collaboration is an essential aspect of hybrid work. It defines the way both remote and in-office employees communicate and work together effectively, while taking advantage of the freedom and flexibility that hybrid work models provide. 

In order to navigate this, your business should organize and arrange meetings based on who will be in the office, while giving the option for other team members to join virtually. All workers should be focused on and aware of how everyone is contributing to the conversation to make sure that the virtual team members are included. 

A level of connectivity must also be maintained, regardless of whether colleagues are in-office or remote. The right workplace management solution can resolve this hybrid work struggle, by allowing employees to see who is coming into the office and when. This can help with scheduling meetings or workspaces for collaborative projects, as a meeting room can easily be booked based on everyone’s availability. Or, if colleagues are planning to work remotely on the same days, appropriate arrangements can be made to work together and connect asynchronously as well.  

4. Employee/manager connections

Communication is essential for all relationships, especially ones between managers and their teams. By effectively connecting and strengthening the communication between you and your employees, you can spark motivation, encourage collaboration, and help your team build the necessary skills to achieve success in their roles.  

Sometimes, hybrid employee/manager relations can be a challenge when both individuals are working from different locations. Without a set schedule, if your workers are coming into the office as they please, it can be difficult for you to provide feedback and connect in-person with your employees on a regular basis.  

To remedy this, you need to establish trust with your employees. Always be approachable and friendly to support your team members. By having plenty of one-on-one meetings, you can help your employees set realistic goals and create a plan to work towards achieving them. Communicate with them frequently through necessary channels or platforms, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in-person, so you can keep up with them and make sure that they’re on track. 

Workplace management solutions can assist management by allowing them to see when employees are coming into the office and booking one-on-one meeting spaces accordingly. You can view where your employees are working while in the office, facilitating impromptu check-ins. You can track how frequently your employees may be coming into the office, taking note of those who are primarily remote workers, and fostering connections with them accordingly.  

5. Maintaining company culture

A hybrid work model can result in a dispersed workforce, and this makes it hard to establish a shared culture where core values are aligned across the entire organization. Having a positive company culture is crucial as it can greatly impact the success of the business. In fact, over 50% of executives claim that corporate culture influences important factors such as productivity, growth rates, profitability, and creativity. 

Unfortunately, there is a high chance that employees working mainly from home could have a very different employee experience than those working mostly in-office. Team-building activities, in-person meetings, and employee social interactions contribute greatly to the development of company culture, and these incidences are all compromised under hybrid work models.  

One way you can foster company culture in a hybrid work environment is to encourage positive interactions between your employees, regardless of where they’re working. This can be done through running hybrid meetings, organizing social events, or motivating workers to engage in coffee chats. Creating social connections between employees can build trust and cohesion, which ultimately leads to a better company culture and work environment.  

It should be your priority to uplift the employee experience within your organization, creating a workplace where people feel free, safe, and included.  

Resolving hybrid work challenges to bring about change

Although it may seem daunting at first, implementing a hybrid work model can be a transformative step for the success of your business. By taking the initiative to conquer hybrid work challenges, your organization can take advantage of the many benefits of hybrid work and see lasting impacts in the long term.  

As organizations re-open the office with a hybrid working model, this presents a chance for a meaningful reset. So much has changed since everyone was last in the office on a regular basis, and it’s important to set clear expectations for workplace etiquette. Not only will setting the ground rules ease potential anxiety about returning to the office, but it also ensures that the workplace experience will be productive, collaborative, and inclusive.

In-Person Code of Conduct

To facilitate a smooth office re-entry, share a set of suggested office etiquette that staff can reference. Use this as a chance to introduce etiquette for concepts such as a hybrid meeting. Overall, the idea is to provide some guidance on expectations for employees. The following are a few suggestions for how to approach defining hybrid office etiquette:

  • Be respectful.

Respect all comfort levels while at the office. Some coworkers may be ready for mask-less handshakes and hugs, and others may prefer to keep their distance. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure about your colleagues’ preferences before interacting in-person.

Ensure to keep to the space that you’ve reserved. Using a meeting room that was previously booked by another team member or sitting at a different desk than the one you reserved impacts others and the plans that they’ve carefully made. Be considerate of your colleagues who booked their space in advance and keep to what you’ve booked. If you no longer require the use of an amenity, cancel your reservation so that a colleague has the chance to use it instead.

  • Be a good neighbour.

Make an effort to greet and welcome coworkers. Be sure to make introductions or offer a friendly greeting to those working nearby. The great reshuffle is ongoing: chances are that there will be some new faces in the office.  

Just like before the pandemic, avoid using speakerphone, ringtones, or having loud conversations with coworkers in shared spaces. These same rules apply to joining virtual meetings from the office. Use headphones or book a meeting room – it will not only benefit the office environment, but also those attending the hybrid meeting. When you’re finished using a space, be sure to keep it neat and tidy for the next person. By being considerate of others, you will contribute to a great office experience for all.

  • Be inclusive.

Create a safe space at the office by avoiding controversial conversations on topics such as politics, religion, or even the pandemic. Be open-minded towards others and approach your coworkers with empathy. Speak up if you witness a circumstance where someone is being inconsiderate or not following company policies.

As well, alert your teammates when planning to work from the office to create a welcoming atmosphere. Or, use the find a colleague feature in your workplace management solution to coordinate collaboration. Especially if a co-worker is new, inviting your colleagues to collaborate at the office is a great step towards making the office an inclusive space for all.

  • Be secure.

It’s time to be reacquainted with sound security habits at the office. This includes asking for verification if you don’t recognize someone, locking your computer when leaving your desk, erasing the whiteboard in a meeting room, and proper disposal of sensitive documents. Be aware of where you conduct conversations – not only is it disruptive to speak loudly in common areas, but it could also pose a security risk.

Upholding Expectations

Setting and sharing clear guidelines also includes what to do if the etiquette is not followed. Publish a process for staff to report if a colleague is not adhering to the agreed-upon ground rules. Let employees know to follow this process when reporting any issues. This way, expectations for everyone are as clear as possible.

The Office of the Future

To ensure safety in the workplace and a successful hybrid office, set clear guidelines for all employees. As more staff return to the office, update your best practices on a regular basis to accommodate any relevant changes. Consider running a pulse survey about the hybrid office to generate employee feedback about the in-office experience. Embrace the future of work and this opportunity to reset as a team to ensure that the hybrid office is an enjoyable place to work.

Investigating Employee Attitudes Toward Hybrid Work

We’re at a turning point where many companies are considering adopting a new work model. The workplace is going hybrid, reflecting shifting employee values as a result of the pandemic. Now, 70% of workers want flexible working options to continue, and 65% want in-person time with their colleagues to resume. How will you decide  which hybrid work model is right for your company? — Ask your employees.

Why Gather Employee Insights?

Introducing a new workplace model that will satisfy all employees is a very challenging mandate. Some workers might want assigned seating, while others may opt for reserving space whenever, wherever. Directly asking employees about their preferences early on will help to strike a balance between various groups and lessen any pushback during the implementation. A short employee pulse survey can help you identify what your employees want. Surveys are one aspect of a feedback gathering mechanism – qualitative methods can also provide insights, such as Town Halls, lunch & learns, or dedicated Slack channels. Gather employee feedback for two main purposes:

1. Implement a hybrid work model by starting with the right tone. A successful hybrid work model is inherently people-centric. It shifts the focus from where we work to how we work with a greater emphasis on outcomes. This flexibility empowers employees to prioritize their time and schedule, encourages work-life balance, mental and physical well-being, and ultimately, increases productivity.

2. Ensure a smooth hybrid work rollout by gathering the data that will lead to better decisions. Employees should be consulted to shape the model to ensure that everyone will benefit. Knowing your employees’ preferences will allow you to effectively implement and manage a hybrid work environment. Employees will be a lot happier with the hybrid work policy you enact if they had a part in making it.

When to Run a Return-to-Office Pulse Survey

There are several opportunities throughout the return-to-office journey to collect feedback and measure employee experience. Both formal and informal feedback methods should be utilized to ensure as much information is collected as possible. There are a few key moments throughout the return-to-office journey when it is most important to have formal pulse surveys.

1. Before Adopting a New Work Model

Before you change the work arrangement, understand employee preferences and openness to adopting a new work model. The results will help you to identify what might work best for your organization and inform your return-to-office strategy. Check out our example survey for this stage of the implementation.

Survey: Before Adopting a New Work Model

2. During the Implementation of a New Work Model

If you are running a phased rollout or pilot of your new working model, gather feedback from all participants. This will help to better inform your strategy for the team-wide rollout and improve employee satisfaction throughout the process. Be sure to collect feedback early on to troubleshoot any issues.

Survey: During the Implementation

3. Ongoing Feedback

Continue to measure employee experience throughout the hybrid working arrangement. Ask questions about office cleanliness or visitor satisfaction to deliver quality experiences to your employees and guests. Address any issues with the space and alert the relevant teams. For example, Nspace instantly alerts cleaning staff after a desk or meeting room has been used.

4. After the Rollout of a Work Model

Send pulse surveys on a regular basis to maintain alignment with employee preferences and adoption. This encourages open dialogue and will help you to resolve common concerns.

Best Practices to Measure Employee Experience

When rolling out a hybrid work policy, prepare for success by gathering as much relevant employee feedback as possible.

– If you already collect employee feedback, use your average response rate as a benchmark for success.

– Send out the survey through more than one communication channel, such as an email and a Slack or Microsoft Teams message. Take it to the next level by creating a Teams or Slack channel devoted to this topic.

– Don’t hesitate to send reminders to boost response rates. Encourage managers to send the link to their staff directly.

Keep the surveys short to boost your completion rate. It’s quick and easy to complete a multiple-choice survey, however, including some open response questions will help to collect more context.

– Use anonymous feedback if you want your employees to be more honest about their preferences without fear of repercussions. You may also receive more responses as a result.

– Use attributed feedback if you wish to easily identify and troubleshoot specific employee issues. Get a sense of trends among departments or regions to better inform your return-to-office strategy.

Use your communication channels to your advantage. Beyond a pulse survey, informal feedback is also quite useful. Have managers speak to their staff about working preferences to capture more information beyond the pulse survey.

Embracing the Future of Work

It’s undeniable – the future of work is a flexible, employee-first hybrid model. When rolling out this new model, listen to employee feedback and implement a strategy that takes this into consideration. Be open with your employees through this process and beyond. Use Nspace to help support your return to the office – we’d love to chat.

The world of work has shifted dramatically since the advent of COVID-19 – and we are still coping with a tidal wave of transformation pains as we edge beyond the crisis.

How do we find that ideal balance between hybrid and remote working? What will it take to reconfigure and equip our spaces to benefit everyone? And how do we design a work environment and a new set of work practices that helps employees maintain work-life balance – the most coveted of states – wherever they happen to set up their desk?

According to KPMG, the move to a hybrid work model is not a short-term trend but a long-term transformation. Firms most successful will be those that deftly balance talent preferences, business objectives, and DEI principles.

Over-working has been a trend for at least a decade. One Harvard Business School survey indicates that 94% of professionals in the service industry put in 50+ hours a week. Although some people claim long hours are a necessary evil, a flurry of studies show that when work-life balance is missing, everyone suffers as a consequence, both the employees and the business.

A natural assumption is that working from home would be the answer to regaining that ideal state of work-life balance. After all, gone is the long commute and the overtime at the office. Surprisingly, quite the opposite is true.  The blurred lines between home and work have actually caused a spike in stress levels and the erosion of well-being. Based on a recent study 29% of employees, in fact, feel that remote work has had a negative impact on their well-being – and more than half (56%) have found it difficult to “switch off.”

Another drawback to the remote working model is the loneliness factor. The great shift to remote work in 2020 created increased social isolation. Social time has been proven to be an important part of an engaging workplace. According to Gallup research, almost two in 10 workers reported feeling lonely. And there are business impacts as well. Having friendships at work, according to Gallup, is a predictor of many important business outcomes, including the delivery of excellent customer service and overall profitability.

So, could a return to the workplace on a part-time basis actually be a healthy thing for employees and businesses alike? We believe so, as long as employers take the right measures and an enlightened, compassionate approach when rolling out the new hybrid work model.

Here are the top five tips for supporting work-life balance in the hybrid workplace:

1. Keep flexible working flexible

After more than two years of managing their work lives flexibly from a home-based environment, employees have tasted freedom and don’t want to lose it. The idea of having to adhere to a hybrid schedule set by an employer may not be embraced with enthusiasm.

Instead, workplace HR experts now say that what workers need most in the new hybrid work environment is flexibility — the ability to figure out for themselves which days are in the office and which ones are remote. Take steps to allow your employees to have a say in setting their schedule. Prioritizing this “choice” – of when they will be in the office, and when remote – will be vital to your hybrid transition success. It may even make the difference between retaining and losing your most valuable talent.

2. Set healthy boundaries

It isn’t always easy for employees to effectively set their own boundaries between work and home life – especially in the remote world. This will continue in the hybrid work model. For this reason, hybrid managers need to lead by example, providing encouragement to disconnect and shut the laptop at certain times during the week.

A number of companies including Citigroup and HSBC last year introduced “No Zoom Fridays” to allow employees time to focus on their tasks without the interruption of meetings. Others are establishing core hours – set times when everyone must be in the office. The rest of the work hours are flexible, so employees can log time whenever and wherever they are working. Policies with flexible time built in will help your employees manage personal responsibilities – and maintain better work-life balance.

3. Keep task allocation fair

With different groups of employees working in the office and at home at various times, it may become challenging to manage workload distribution. It will be increasingly important for managers to ensure equitable workloads for all. Sometimes certain employees become overburdened with work while others find themselves under-utilized (which can also erode morale and employee engagement). To strike a balance, businesses need to distribute work equally so that everyone – whether working remote or in the office – has a good balance of engaging work, but no one is burdened with too much.

4. Ramp up fitness, collaboration, and social perks

One of the best things about the partial return to the office is the social aspect. No longer are we only connected to talking heads on a screen. It will be important to make that time in the office with colleagues not just productive, but also fun and re-invigorating. Be sure to have comfortable and attractive spaces ready for team collaboration sessions – with Keurig machines, comfy couches, and all the right new tools at hand.

Beyond that, consider upgrading your office fitness spaces, organizing wellness events, and special games or social occasions to have everyone not just working, but laughing and bonding together. Social events can certainly be a powerful strategy for fostering engagement amongst employees.

5. Use the right tools

You may think of tech tools as a way to keep your fingers on the pulse of productivity. They can also be used to measure (and improve) the well-being of your workforce. Implementing a desk booking tool can also help to alleviate stress about coming into the office. Beyond their practicality, these types of tools signal to employees that their employer prioritizes safety and well-being at work.

Consider using time-tracking and productivity software to glean essential insights into your team’s workload. This way, you will be able to assign projects more fairly, establish healthy work hour limits – and take the pressure off that overburdened employee who needs a bit more balance in their life.

A Sustainable Hybrid Work Model

In the new hybrid working model, achieving work-life balance matters more than ever. As we all face the stress of a workplace transformation, establishing a sense of equilibrium, self-care, and camaraderie for your talent is so essential. Now is the time to lead by example and action – and roll out your new hybrid workplace as a healthy, happy, and balanced new normal.

Hybrid work has introduced unprecedented flexibility and convenience for office employees, providing the ability to work remotely as well as on site. In response, corporate office footprints are shrinking to embrace office spaces with open, flexible designs – acknowledging that the concept of a fixed desk with an engraved nameplate for every employee is officially obsolete.

While this approach brings benefits such as cost savings from reduced square footage and fewer desks to maintain, it presents operational challenges as well. Hybrid offices implemented without proper forethought sometimes fail to optimize for the humans working in them, amplifying noise and distractions. Further, users of dynamic hot desk reservation systems are likely to encounter new and unfamiliar faces every visit, making it difficult to recognize unauthorized personnel and abnormal behaviour.

Even something as basic as access control for visitors must be re-examined to ensure adequate levels of security in the hybrid office. With an estimated 70% of US offices embracing an open concept, security considerations are more timely than ever.

What can employers do to provide their hybrid workforce with a comfortably secure physical workspace?

Digital Access Control and Visitor Management

To start, it’s time to upgrade physical access control from a binder and sign-in sheet to a modern, digital visitor management system. These tools automatically log when people enter and exit and can even govern access to specific areas based on need and authorization. By using a mix of keycards, biometrics, and other factors to validate identity every step of the way, you can be sure that visitors only have access to certain meeting rooms, that contingent staff can’t access the server room, and that other site-specific restrictions are met.

A workplace management solution is another tool that can improve security for your hybrid team. Beyond simply reserving a desk or meeting room, you can implement zones for various groups, ensuring that marketing staff always work with their own team and can’t simply appear next to a member of HR, payroll, or another group handling confidential data.

Sound Security Practices

From a management framework standpoint, it’s imperative to re-think the practice of treating facility management and cyber security as siloed groups. Now that site security and access control are increasingly cloud-based, cyber threats can have a direct impact on the physical office – and likewise, bad actors in the physical office can impact operations in the cloud. Encourage facility staff, IT, and even Human Resources to coordinate and complement each other’s efforts.

Concrete examples of sound hybrid workplace security include:

  • Coordinated onboarding of new staff to ensure they have their own access cards on day one (whether or not they are on site at the time)
  • Rapid and remote off-boarding to revoke access when employment is terminated
  • Discreet direct-to-security chat function on staff computers to operate as a panic button for employees who feel unsafe or threatened

It’s also a good idea to think carefully about office communication. Regular bulletins informing staff of when to expect new hires, visitors or third-party vendors can help them recognize new people and identify unusual behaviour. Beyond that, signage with protocols of what to do in the event of an emergency or who to call when feeling unsafe can help put people – particularly those working alone after hours – at ease.

Good Physical Design

Gone are the days of the universal, uniform, open concept office with no walls or barriers of any kind. What works best is a customized mix of open spaces for collaboration and private areas away from prying eyes and distracting noises. Today, hybrid offices come with several options including mobile cubes, divider walls, pavilions with sliding doors, and private workstations for confidential tasks. Physical safety can be further enhanced with convex mirrors to improve workplace visibility as well as good lighting, particularly after hours.

Equally important is the ability to leave belongings in a secure location when stepping away – which means providing hot desks with a locking drawer, or lockers, to store valuables.

And, of course, it is critical to enforce a strict clean-desk policy to ensure no sensitive documents are left unattended. This often includes providing secure document disposal in a convenient location.

Hybrid Work and Physical Security are Complementary

Hybrid offices are an exciting new frontier for the modern enterprise: they empower a dynamic, flexible workforce with the capacity to work remotely while reaping the benefits of face time and in-person collaboration. But with flexibility comes evolving security needs. The hybrid office no longer consists of predictable, fixed-desk occupancy by familiar cubicle neighbours.

To ensure that on-site staff feel confident whether working independently or in teams, it’s imperative to provide them with the same sense of security and privacy they enjoyed before the shift to hybrid work. That means everything from building robust communication programs to implementing room booking technology, and from providing secure spaces to store valuables to offering a healthy mix of open and private work environments. It means creating a holistic approach to security that connects the siloes of IT and facility management.

With these measures in place, staff can collaborate and focus with peace of mind, realizing all the benefits and mitigating the risks of the modern hybrid work model.

Like it or not, the era of the hybrid working model is upon us in this (almost) post-pandemic world. Get on board – or be left behind. According to a new McKinsey survey of one hundred executives across industries and geographies, 9 out of 10 organizations will be blending remote and on-site working, beginning in 2022. In fact, the majority of executives surveyed expect that in the new hybrid working world employees will be on-site one to four days per week.

How can organizations begin to grapple with this daunting transformation to hybrid? Certainly, one important theme rises to the top: employee health and wellness. Beyond internal systems, technology infrastructure, and productivity, taking care of staff will be a crucial priority for any company wishing to maintain a competitive advantage in the hybrid working age.

When it comes to employees – the bedrock of any organization – these are scary and uncertain times. After almost two years of working from the cocooned safety of home, many are reconsidering the role of work in their lives. Priorities and preferences are changing. The idea of a partial return to the office may be met with cheers by some (a joyous reunion with colleagues), with fears by others (is it safe?), and with reticence and uncertainty by the remainder (do I really want to be in a physical workspace away from home anymore? What about flexibility?).

The War for Talent Intensifies

Gone are the days when employees were simply grateful to have a job and eager to stay loyal to their employer through thick and thin. Indeed, 2022 brings a tidal wave of attrition: one in four employees quit their job last year according to data from the people analytics firm Visier, and the trend continues. This means challenging times for employers hoping to attract and retain talent. The COVID-19 crisis has ushered in an explosion of remote working opportunities and a booming gig economy for knowledge workers. For these and other reasons, the war for talent is expected to rage on throughout 2022, challenging employers to shore up resources and rethink more meaningful recruitment and retention strategies. According to an XPertHR survey report, 89% of employers believe recruiting and hiring will be either “somewhat” or “very” challenging this year – and a full 79% expect employee retention to be exceptionally challenging. The new data indicates a 23% jump in recruiting and hiring concerns compared to last year.

Hybrid Work Secrets: Wellness is the Word

According to a study by Gartner, “wellness” is fast becoming the new metric North American companies are using to assess the mental, physical, and financial health of their employees. During the pandemic, a great number of companies took steps to reinforce the wellness supports they provided. An investment in employee well-being translates to higher levels of performance, retention, and success in the hybrid work transition.

In fact, Jan Bruce, CEO of workforce solutions platform meQuilibrium, says that, without employee wellbeing as a focus for HR in the coming months, productivity and profitability will certainly suffer. Conversely, those leaders who prioritize employee well-being will not only win the goodwill of their people, but also significantly reduce costs and attrition in their transition to a hybrid work model. What’s more, a 2021 report by Gartner predicts that by 2022, 60% of workers in the hybrid work environment will prefer a wellness-equipped smart office relative to a remote office.

So, you have done the logistical planning around distancing, hygiene, and desk reservation systems. What steps can you take to unleash a healthy hybrid work model for your organization? A culture where everyone feels safe, empowered – and included?

Wellness in the Hybrid Workplace: Three Ideas to Inspire Your Health and Wellbeing Programs

Keep Teams Together Through On-Site “Neighbourhoods”

Create reassuring new rules around desk booking, space booking, and hoteling that ensure teams work in the same space each time. Consider creating designated areas where associated employees (i.e., the marketing team, operations group, accounting staff) can stay together, collaborate and work alongside each other whenever they reserve space to work on site. No more fear of a strange new person right behind the next partition – or unfamiliar faces just across the aisle!

Respect Different Levels of “Proximity” Comfort

Many businesses have been socially distanced for the better part of two years. As a result, employees will have different levels of comfort regarding proximity and social interactions. Some will be ready to return to handshakes and high fives, others will prefer the elbow bump.

With the return to work, organizations will have to renegotiate our understanding of personal space – both individually and in relation to the differing comfort level of others. One area of research that is useful in this regard is the study of interpersonal space, known as proxemics. An interesting aspect of this concept is that it is largely nonverbal. We do not go around asking strangers if we can pass them or touch them; we need to judge from their body language how to best maneuver through their space and relate. 

So – how can you enable your workforce to read these cues – and maintain respectful distances between coworkers, based on their comfort?

Take steps to ensure all these different comfort levels are respected through:

Open, honest conversations with each individual about the degree of proximity that is right for them. This will serve to create clarity, ensure everyone’s preferences are respected; and reduce the stress of potentially intruding on someone’s safe space.

Implement coloured wristbands for easy cues: green for handshakes and hugs, yellow for elbow bumps, and red for “don’t touch me.” Survey employees to gather their thoughts on how to best identify and respect their wishes and boundaries.

Make additional hygiene aids available for those who need them: santizers, wipes, and beyond.

Structure collaboration time: Consider scheduling team standups at a set time each day and set rules based on all team member preferences. That way, those who are uneasy with group gatherings can prepare themselves mentally and physically.

Champion Inclusiveness and Employee Equivalence in the Hybrid Workplace

In this new model of work, the notion of inclusiveness will expand beyond demographic categories to encompass all those with differing needs, anxieties and working preferences. Some may prefer (or be required) to be on-site all the time. Others may be caregivers at home, or have other reasons they need to remain working virtually.

Hybrid work environments should foster equity among virtual and in-person workers. Creating this equivalence is easier said than done. Technologies, processes, and cultural changes must support fair treatment and include everyone, regardless of location, individual sensitivities, and working styles.

How do you ensure that all voices are heard, everyone is included, and no one is left out in the hybrid workplace? Make sure those who remain working virtually get equal respect, support, and opportunities as those coming into the office through:

A hybrid approach to meetings with on-site and virtual staff always invited and present

– Creative approaches to social and collaborative working events that include those on and off site. Consider mailing craft or cocktail kits to staff homes. Or, inviting virtual workers to join meetings and actively participate with tangible items to bond them with those in the office. You could hold team lunches where remote staff join in via a food delivery service – there are many options.

– Appointment of “Hybrid Work Champions” whose job it is to ensure no one is left out; that voices of both on- and off-site staff are equally heard – and their needs are equally met.

New technology to support employee equivalence: Workers at home and in the office will need shared information and collaborative spaces that are as accessible and intuitive as possible – think online collaborative spaces, smart technology, and other team building technologies.

Creative solutions to drive purposeful engagement: Although virtual social gatherings have benefits, they are not sufficient to create the levels of connection needed for an organization to thrive. To reduce isolation, prevent new hires from feeling lost, and help employees feel part of a team they may never have met in person, consider creating formal buddy systems, beyond traditional mentors. Engineer moments that will foster loyalty, such as celebration of team accomplishments and milestones. Develop first-line manager tools and training to enable them to drive engagement. Do not abandon newcomers to fend for themselves!

Wellness Strategy for Hybrid Work

In creating your wellness strategy for the new hybrid world, the best place to start is with your people. Talk to them. Survey them about their hopes, fears, and current levels of engagement. Ask them what they want – and what they do not want.

With these important insights, you can build a roadmap forward – ensuring your workforce wellness plan is always adaptable. Take care to constantly check back with your workforce on the state of their well-being along the path to transformation. After all, this hybrid transformation is new terrain for us all. Organizations around the world are learning as they go. The best we can all do is take tremendous care, physically, emotionally, and financially, of our most valuable asset: our people.

Looking for the right solution to optimize wellness in your workplace – and increase employee engagement and retention? Contact us to find out how Nspace, our state-of-the-art workplace management solution can help.