In times of uncertainty, what does a good employee experience really look like?

6 steps you can take today to improve employee experience

The positive news on vaccine development seems more and more promising daily – inspiring me to think about what the future will look like. While there is still a lot of uncertainty, my focus on workplace experience continues to show me the importance of enabling real and meaningful workplace experiences in a world where people will have more and more flexibility and choice in where they work. I have daily conversations with clients to talk about how they’re supporting their employees outside of the office, and our research has uncovered some really interesting trends. It’s too important to not get right- for your business and the good of people. While it does require a cohesive strategy across your workforce, it’s easier than you may think to provide positive experiences from afar – driving collaboration, empowerment and wellbeing within your workforce.

When the pandemic began, most employers weren’t prepared to support collaboration and wellbeing outside of the office. This isn’t surprising, considering 75% of employees reported they worked from home never or infrequently pre-pandemic. Individuals were left to their own devices to figure out things like ergonomic setups, speedy wifi, and how to squeeze in a break between video conferencing. But as time went on and we continue to hunker down for the better part of a year, employee expectations for support are shifting, and businesses should be prepared to shift with them. I encourage all business leaders to think critically about how their workers are supported, sooner rather than later. 

Pre-2020, the conversations that were taking place around workplace experience were often dominated by headline making trends and buzzwords, like nap-pods and coffee on-tap. While most people won’t turn down a free cup of better-than-decent coffee, only a small number of companies were asking whether these trends actually benefitted the company culture, employee engagement, and collaboration of the people who worked there. Similarly, in our current work-from-anywhere world, I’ve found that companies gravitate toward the lowest hanging fruit to make employees feel supported, but these efforts aren’t solving the root challenges and lack the empathy expected of the workforce. A lot of companies started with covering internet costs for employees to allow for easier collaboration. But without a centralized provisioning plan, those costs can soon become unwieldy. At $50 a month per employee, a 10,000-person company will spend $6 million a year on internet alone, quickly eating away at any savings from a reduction in operating costs. Similarly, several tech companies provided stipends for purchasing home-office furniture. But does every employee medically require a sit-stand desk? Would a better use of funds be virtual ergonomic assessments for employees?

Organizations need to ask how they can really help- how they invest in employees so they are actually supported in bringing their best self to work regardless of location. 2020 has taught us a lot about what’s truly valued by employees, and it’s time we started listening to those desires. In a recent study conducted by JLL, we found that due to COVID, employee priorities shifted the most drastically in these areas:

  • Being supported by their employer to lead a healthy lifestyle
  • Working for a company that ensures their wellbeing
  • Commuting less – working and living locally

These changes don’t sound too surprising 8 months into the pandemic. And they’re not surprising to us either. These are trends we’ve been anticipating for the future - but the pandemic has rapidly accelerated them. 

So, how do you meet those demands? And why should you want to? Today, it’s about so much more than worker productivity – by creating positive environments that support employees, you can unlock so much more potential in the performance of your workforce:

Put simply, expending in the right areas for the support of employees yields direct favorable returns to the business.

The bottom line: 6 steps you can take today

Identify your outcomes: Is your ultimate goal to lower insurance costs and improve overall health and wellness of your employees? Become an employer of choice? Or improve business resiliency when you can’t be in the office? Start by figuring out what the end goal is, and design a strategy from there.

Create continuity between office, home, and anywhere else: We know that employees miss coming into the office, and simultaneously enjoy some of the benefits from working at home. I'm advising clients to create a program that ensures seamless connection to the culture and collaboration their employees love, regardless of where they are physically working. It will allow forward-thinking companies to stay nimble and exceed employee expectations.

Embrace digital programming: Look to solution providers that can provide multifaceted wellbeing solutions and can support digital programming for soft services and hard goods, like office equipment or collaboration tools.

Holistic approach vs. point solutioning: When you’re working with solution providers and vendors, make sure they all help you achieve your outcomes (point #1). Starting with a point-solution to a single problem will only lead to 50 different point solutions solving 50 different problems. I recommend finding a partner that can manage the overarching goal and identify your solutions from there. 

Approach office occupancy with data-driven insights: When I look at the research we’ve done around where employees want to work, I can really relate to the desired flexibility. Don't we all want flexibility in working that allows for us to be heads down some days and highly collaborative others? I certainly do! But how can you balance meeting the employee desires with real estate planning? I anticipate using data to understand the trends of your workforce and creating your footprint based on those insights. 

Take advantage of hyper-local office space: Maximizing time is key for everyone, and this pandemic has certainly shown us that commuting time is best when minimized. Making space for flexible co-working offices within your portfolio can create a nice middle ground for employees looking to reduce commute times and a corporate real estate team trying to manage costs.