In the wake of the mass exodus of employees from “quiet quitting” over the past year and layoffs from the world’s biggest tech firms, organisations that are looking to attract these talents need to reconsider what actually makes their company worth working for.
Aside from offering mouth-watering salaries, employers need to realise the workplace has emerged as a competitive front to stand out from the competition. An office is an extension of a business’ brand and to become an employer of choice, it needs to leave a strong impression on anyone who walks through your doors. To do this, organisations will have to rethink their office and its fundamental purpose.
For a workplace that is geared towards talent attraction and retention, here are the 3 detailed workplace strategies that we implement with our clients:
PEOPLE FIRST WORKPLACE STRATGIES
People are the greatest asset of any organisation, and the end-users of the spaces we design for. The most attractive workplaces we’ve done are those that prioritise their needs and address their concerns. To get an insight into employee’s top of mind concerns in returning to the workplace, we spoke to 25 leaders and surveyed over 450 respondents across four APAC organisations. The top concerns that emerged were around Employee Safety, Managerial Support and Flexible Work Arrangements across all four countries.
Focusing on Employee Well-being for Workforce Resilience
In a world that is becoming increasingly uncertain, employees face a mountain of concerns every day. Many are fearful that they or their loved ones may become sick, that they may lose their job or suffer pay cuts, and remain highly concerned about the future of their industries, organisation, and career trajectories. Outlining clear expectations is a crucial first step in easing these anxieties.
To create an environment that gives them a peace of mind, regular check-ins between managers and their team members will help organisations to stay up to date on the concerns and questions of employees, quickly addressing problem areas and ensure a smooth transition to new ways of working for individuals and teams. In times where employees’ loyalties may be shaken, organisations can provide access to mental health support and wellbeing programmes that help employees manage stress and anxiety to alleviate challenges in their professional and personal life.
Design with Empathy
The office should be a comfortable and stress-managed environment. For companies that look to adopt a new style of work, forcefully introducing new measures could appear clinical, and if applied without empathy serves as a constant reminder of an unpleasant reality that hampers one’s return-to-office experience. The work environment should be made more pleasant by applying innovative design techniques that communicate and reinforce new ways of working, extending the back-to-office experience into tangible, meaningful encounters.
For example, colour psychology can be applied in the workplace to help designate appropriate behaviours in certain areas of the office without having to directly tell or remind. The use of colour and material choice can inform people of their personal safety space and communicate, in an intuitive manner, the norms of behaviour in different areas.
Safe circulation through and around shared spaces can be addressed through playful graphics that reinforce safe distancing guidelines with a sense of humour that helps to create a positive and pleasant work environment. For example, in Thailand, stuffed bears were placed at a Vietnamese restaurant to indicate which seats are taken to comply with distancing measures.
Visual indicators that each employee can control, such as coloured stickers or bands, can help to subtly express each person’s level of comfort in the workspace, creating a culture of mindfulness and guiding workplace practices.
Discover the Office’s New Intention
Through leadership interviews and employee surveys across APAC, we found that while the majority of people and organisations have adapted well to remote work in the short term, people have also developed a deeper appreciation and varied expectations of working in the office. 96% of survey respondents believe that the office is crucial for connecting effectively with colleagues.
“We’ve always had the capability to work remotely, but we miss those incidental conversations and the creativity that comes out of it. People’s sense of humour is lost over calls. We need to keep the energy & spark going to create motivation” – Leadership Interview, Singapore
Although suitable for individual work tasks, digital connection and tools cannot replace spontaneous conversations that spur creativity and collaboration to continue innovating. In designing the workplaces of the future, organisations should create workspaces to facilitate the types of interactions that are not achieved remotely. If the primary purpose of the office is to support collaboration, social interaction, and knowledge sharing, organisations should consider ways to revise their current workplace layout to accommodate these specific moments of interaction, and create spaces that catalyse human engagement.
At a high level, this will involve a fundamental shift in the ratio of workspaces for most organisations to reduce the number of individual fixed desks in favour of more shared spaces for collaboration, and high-activity social areas such as work cafes. Design elements like open spaces, atriums, shared workspaces in common areas, staircases with seating, and outdoor workspaces can also help to create an environment that encourages people to work together by locating desirable amenities in diverse locations, and facilitating “casual collisions” throughout the workday to promote teamwork and increased collaboration.
BUILD NIMBLE, PURPOSEFUL WORKSPACES
Since the pandemic, organisations are placing more importance on building resilience into their physical workspace, allowing them to nimbly adapt in periods of crisis and change. More than ever, businesses are considering their real estate differently, thinking beyond space and planning for workplace strategies that enable flexibility to make the work environment as productive as possible as circumstances evolve.
Reimagine Your Spaces to do More
In India, Paperspace has conceptualised a “Hive Concept” that incorporates movable partitions to redesign the space in a way that fits the company’s work activities. This configuration enables the work settings to be quickly and regularly adjusted as needs change.
In Thailand, our client has allocated an entire floor of their office space as a ‘hackable’ workspace to test new layouts before incorporating successful experimental designs to the rest of the workplace. While in Singapore, organisations are moving away from fixed desks in favour of more shared collaboration spaces to allow for more flexibility as the work-from-office capacity is expected to fluctuate within the short-to-mid term.
By building resiliency into physical workspaces, organisations will have to adopt an agile workplace strategy that allows continual learning, development and adaptation for the future.
DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF EXPERIMENTATION FOR TALENT
Pre-pandemic, we had a fixed idea of what the typical office looked like – a mixture of private offices, meeting rooms, shared amenities, and a pantry or dining area. While offices have advanced in some ways over the past decade, they will be completely reimagined in the post COVID-19 world to reflect the changes in how we live and work today. For example, many organisations today are adopting hybrid workplace models – a combination of a virtual and physical set up. You will have employees working from home, in the office, in the field, or on an off-site location. This approach requires organisations to accelerate their digital transformation journey, and readily adopt new technologies and processes to connect a workforce that is becoming increasingly fragmented.
With so many companies globally undertaking this journey of workplace transformation at the same time, it may be tempting for organisations to plan their transformation around what other successful companies have done. However, every company is unique, and there will be no one-size fits all to the future of work.
Organisations will need to work diligently to quickly identify opportunities for change, test solutions, evaluate the results, and reiterate as needed to find the best strategy that brings out the best results for their business and people. To inform workplace strategy, thorough research and reliable data about what employees need and how they work best will be required. Leading organisations are piloting their workplace strategies by transforming their office space in stages and using each experiment as a learning experience that continuously informs the next transformation. Some are creating agile workspaces fit for a short-to-mid term organisational response by allocating one office building of an entire portfolio or even consolidating two floors of a building into one for piloting design strategies and changes before making bigger firm-wide decisions.
In planning their future-thinking workplace, businesses must not only respond to short-term needs but also the long road ahead as the world works to define a new normal. The purpose of the workplace in the long term will be radically redefined to create productive, collaborative, and rewarding work environments. As the demand for remote work grows and hybrid workforce strategies become the norm, resilience must be built into the physical workspace to thrive in uncertain environments. Nimble, purposeful spaces that allow flexibility will propel any organisation to quickly adapt to any scenario, and continuously embrace a culture of experimentation.
In our upcoming articles, we’ll address hybrid workplace strategies in depth to help organisations better understand the needs of their teams that will inform design, both remotely and in the workplace. To stay tuned, sign up below to receive the latest research and insights from Paperspace Asia.
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Paperspace is a collective of experienced strategists, designers, and change activists based in Singapore, Bangkok, Manila and India with expertise in Change Management, Design, and Workplace Strategy