The things your employees are wondering about can help you make smart workplace decisions for the future.
The world continues to turn as we return to work(place) but so too do the uncertainties of what our workplaces will hold for us as employees. This uncertainty drives many to ask the question “is my work still right for me” – which drives uncertainties for employers as well. By addressing four key workplace elements, employers can alleviate many of the concerns their employees have about life in the new workplace.
We have become accustomed to more intimate workspaces that support collaboration and more frequent interactions, however, many of those spaces do not support our current need of social distancing. In fact, the physical sensations we experience throughout the workday from being near our colleagues is something many of us have missed while working from home. Some employee concerns might be:
Does everyone need to be in the office at once?
We have recently seen how well certain responsibilities can be met when working remotely, and the work from home option may be a permanent option for some in the workplaces of the future. It’s now possible for the home office to be as comfortable and productive as the formal office with products like tabletop sit-to-stand units that support multiple monitors and other equipment that make any surface a work surface, and stylish, affordable task seating that fits ergonomics into any decor. Evaluate the needs of your company and identify ways to allow your employees to rotate between office and home office while still achieving career success and satisfaction. This allows you the opportunity to work within the existing floorplate for your workplace to accommodate the new requirements for social distancing and privacy at minimal cost.
Do individual workspaces limit physical interaction without limiting necessary collaboration?
Before adding walls and screens everywhere, consider simple reconfigurations of existing spaces to achieve social distancing. Shift storage components to provide practical barriers between coworkers in shared workspaces. Rotate desk surfaces within workstations to let team members face away from each other and use glass screens on low panels to separate personal spaces from common spaces without losing access to views and daylight. If your office has incorporated social spaces into the workplace, you can convert collaborative areas into individual workspaces to reduce office density and still enable safe physical interaction as necessary.
Are meeting spaces able to support social distancing and privacy?
With social distancing requirements, physical meetings are a challenge but not impossible. Move seating against the walls and add occasional tables for users to write and place personal items, leaving conference tables for layout space and interim storage during a meeting. Remove doors from meeting spaces and implement sound blocking and sound masking products to address privacy needs.
There may still be a need to modify or expand your workplace footprint in the future, but these simple and cost-effective steps can be taken now to comfortably expand personal space for the sake of safety.
What can be said about cleanliness that hasn’t been said hundreds of times in the past several weeks? Facility and property managers have already taken steps to ensure current cleaning practices meet official guidelines for the specific activities that occur in places they oversee. While these are necessary efforts, there are ways all of us can take responsibility for workplace cleanliness that will make those efforts even more effective. Some employee concerns might be:
Has the confirmation of cleaning standards been incorporated into daily management checklists?
Sure, cleanliness is top of mind as companies phase various teams and team members back into the office – but what about tomorrow? Make a conscious effort to confirm and address workplace cleanliness every day or cleaning standards will have a decreasing level of importance as we fall back into our old work habits.
Are employees enabled to take ownership of cleaning standards in the workplace?
It’s simple: people care about the things they own. Establish simple standards of cleanliness, make common cleaning supplies accessible to everyone, and ensure everyone knows that the entire workplace belongs to them to see greater attention to cleanliness throughout the workplace.
If we challenge each other to make workplace cleanliness a personal responsibility we can minimize the need for extensive, disruptive, and costly efforts in the future.
If we have learned anything from our recent experiences it’s that we need clear, consistent, and constant communication in order to feel comfortable in any situation. As employers, this means it may be necessary to establish new standards of communication throughout every level of your organization if we want to maximize employee confidence. Some employee concerns might be:
Are employees able to connect with everyone right now in order to get what they need to do their job?
The biggest complaint leadership often has about remote working is that their managers can’t see their people and their people can’t connect with their coworkers. Luckily, we live in an age where technology can make that issue obsolete. Setup tools that maximize your employees’ ability to collaborate Video conferencing is a luxury that’s now affordable for any organization, and there are countless apps available to support whatever project management, team communication, and one-on-one follow-up your business needs. Collaboration tools like Bluescape from Haworth even allow team members to share documents, make notes, and brainstorm in real time so their projects are on time.
Are customers able to reach the right people in a timely manner?
All employees hate conversations with angry or irritated customers, which should come as no surprise. Make certain your communication system in today’s new workplace prevents does not cause delays in responding to your customers. The right consultants can help ensure your voice, email, video, and documentation tools are enabling your employees to conduct business the way your customers expect, regardless of how and where your employees are working.
No matter what communication practices you establish, remember to Keep It Stupid Simple so you can be sure the greatest number of people can understand, accept, and interact with what is needed for your business.
Yes, there will be changes ahead. In fact, change will be increasingly common in our daily lives while the uncertainties of the current health crisis continue to exist. Yet in these changing times with unknown futures we can still achieve a sense of normalcy in the workplace by achieving accessible, safe, and thoughtful work environments where employees can thrive.