5 ways employees now think differently about the workplace

Workforce expectations have shifted significantly in the last year amid a surge in remote working

February 09, 2021

The office is no longer a place to sit at a desk trying to block out the background noise to hit that crucial 4pm deadline.

The pandemic has shown office workers there’s an alternative – one that gives people the freedom to work in different spaces according to their needs and preferences. And now many don’t want to go back to the one-size-fits-all approach that was so common before.

“The pandemic has hastened the realisation that work is not somewhere you go, but something you do, no matter where it happens,” says Flore Pradère, Research Director, Global Corporate Solutions at JLL. “And it’s the workforce – empowered by technology and looking for companies to do more on supporting their wellbeing – who is now driving and accelerating change. Businesses need to reinvent themselves with the workforce front of mind.”

Many companies from tech to financial services are now moving towards more hybrid work models incorporating homes, offices and other remote locations and redesigning their spaces and strategies to put people first and provide a better workplace experience.

“We’re entering into the golden age of the worker,” says Lee Daniels, Head of Workforce and Workplace Consulting at JLL. “We’re starting to see traditional work and workstyles move away from the office and the evolution of the workplace into a people-centric environment.”

So what do today’s employees now expect?

1. There’s no need to be in the office five days a week from 9am – 6pm

With video conferencing and digital collaboration tools, people can work from anywhere. JLL research shows employees want to work remotely 2.4 days a week once the pandemic is over – double what was previously considered the norm. Having a better work/life balance is now seen as being more important than a comfortable salary for many workers.

What’s more, 71 percent say they’re expecting more flexible work schedules. For companies, it requires a mind shift in traditional people management, looking beyond presenteeism to new ways of keeping employees engaged and maintaining productivity.

2. Workspaces should enable flexible workstyles

Flexible working requires more flexible space, whether desks in third party coworking facilities in between offsite client meetings or touchdown spaces in smaller satellite offices to minimise travel times. “We’re seeing landlords create their own flexible space or partner with flexible space operators to meet workforce demand and new working and living patterns,” says Hannah Sherwin, Head of EMEA Flex Advisory at JLL.

Inside offices, space is becoming more versatile. As typical workdays involve various tasks from group meetings to private conversations to answering urgent emails, not all are easy to do in crowded offices where meeting rooms are in short supply. Workplaces are instead being transformed into different areas for collaboration, private work or relaxation and furnished accordingly.

3. Spending time in the office is also a social experience to connect with colleagues face-to-face

Many people like coming into the office to see their colleagues. In hybrid models, offices will be the spaces where people interact, whether in group meetings or informal chats, with more focussed work done at home. Companies are increasingly introducing spaces and amenities to encourage interaction, such as breakout coffee areas. Indeed, some 49 percent of employees are expecting social spaces to boost their experience in the office, JLL found.

4. Inadequate equipment or poor Wi-Fi connections just don’t cut it

As the workplace becomes more digital, shared documents are stored on the cloud and more communication takes place on team collaboration software, weak internet signals and geriatric hardware are going to hit productivity and frustrate time-poor employees. And with hybrid models coming into play, that applies to equipment used at home as well as in the office. Indeed, 75 percent of employees are expecting their company to support their work at home, JLL research shows.

“Investing in technology is a non-negotiable,” says Daniels. “Companies need to have a digital first mindset as technology will be the dominant enabler of solutions that enhance the performance and productivity of both workers and the workplace.”

5. Health and wellbeing matters – and companies need to support them

Healthy workplaces are a priority – and employees expect their offices to be safe both in terms of air quality and cleanliness but also social distancing. Around one in three employees expect less density and some physical separation in the workplace, according to JLL.

Equally companies must show how they’re supporting employees in the workplace through the amenities and services they offer, whether it’s free health check-ups, flexible work hours or relaxation rooms.

“Now more than ever, the health and wellbeing of the workforce are paramount to business success,” says Pradère.

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