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  • Writer's pictureLauren Pollack

Working, Together

Updated: May 18, 2023

Curious about the trends we are seeing at the start of 2023? Follow us as we dig into five key trends. See the five trends here!

If you are feeling drawn to work outside of your home, you are not alone.

A growing number of employees, who feel supported by their organization with autonomy and choice, feel a natural pull to work outside of their homes. These employees, who have been working remotely, are seeking to complement their home office with new places and people. This could be the company office, a co-working space, or a “Third Space” like a café. Organizations can benefit by leaning into complementary offerings to meet the emerging needs of their workforce.

As employees are expressing a shift in preferences, it is a good opportunity for organizations to reflect on workplace experience and employee resources.

  • “I’ve been going into the office a few days a week, when I’m not in the office I feel like I lose my edge.”

  • “This will be a welcome and needed opportunity to get out, be with people, and make work more fun.” -Response to an invitation to join a community co-working meet-up group.

Where employees want to go and if they ultimately choose to go, rely on several factors, including:

Convenience | Long and challenging commutes are cited as a barrier to regular office attendance.

Habit | Remote employees are often out of the habit of including other locations in their work week. Many are unsure how to include commute time on top of a workload that has expanded to include previous time spent in transit.

Relevance | If the office or alternate location does not enhance employees' work activity, provide suitable resources, inspire socialization, or enable serendipitous encounters, there is less incentive to visit regularly.

Invitation | We have learned in client workshops that employees on teams that that have been designated as remote, feel the need to be invited into the office.

Workers are seeking spaces that support their needs. When technology in the home outperforms the workplace- it is hard to make a case for the office.

Connections | At a baseline, reliable WI-FI builds confidence in the ability to maintain productivity outside of the home. Ease of connecting to technology in individual and collaborative spaces is critical to effectiveness.

Seamless Transition | The speed at which employees can find their workspace and get set up in a conference room, is critical to productivity and stress level reduction. Hybrid workers can be delayed by lugging equipment back and forth between work and home, when storage or equipment is not readily available.

Privacy | Having limited access to private spaces is often reported as a deterrent for leaving the home office. Enclosed spaces are key for sensitive conversations and focus work. Having reliable access to spaces that provide audio and/or visual privacy increases psychological safety and confidence in spending the day at an alternate location.

Updated Equipment & Workplace Design | Technology and tools should be aligned with the programs and individual technology used by the organization. Design of collaborative spaces will be most successful if they are optimized for in-person and hybrid interactions. Tools that are readily available and well-maintained build trust between employees and the organization.

Trip Planning | In addition to booking space, employees want to know when other people are going to be in the office and where they are sitting once there. Employees report planning their schedules around team and manager interactions but wanting to know who they can expect to see in the office.

Rebuilding The Habit

Interest in events or alternate work locations does not equal attendance.

Turnout is often disrupted by last minute meetings and the intoxicating draw of daily routines. Prioritizing in-person experiences is enabled by creating buffer time for commutes and setting boundaries around meeting schedules.

  • “I just got a meeting scheduled for this morning. Don’t think I’ll be able to make it. Next time!”

  • “I accommodate early meetings by taking them at home, then I get into the swing of my workday and it’s hard to leave.”

In-person experiences with co-workers have the potential to elevate the health of the organization. These types of interactions are particularly valuable for improving connections and relationships, onboarding, early career development, culture, and knowledge exchange.

Learning from others and opportunities to mentor are beneficial to the organization and bolster employee career progression and fulfillment. The serendipitous exchange of knowledge and ideas through unplanned interaction and proximity, at the water cooler and beyond, are unmatched in virtual encounters, especially where psychological safety exists in the workplace. In detriment to culture, visibility bias can become a barrier to growth, without managerial upskilling.

Regardless of whether you have been mandated or inspired to venture out of your home, here are some ideas for adding another place into your workday.

  • Strategize with your Leader - Work with your leader or yourself to prioritize your workload and create a strategy for making time for transit and socialization.

  • Couple New Habits with Existing Routines - Tack on an in-person day to a regularly scheduled event or meeting. Perhaps take your weekly stand-up call from the office.

  • Set a specific goal - Pick a consistent day(s) of the week, pay period, or month to venture out. Repetition supports this practice and can be helped by creating a reoccurring block on your calendar, including commute time.

  • Coordinate with friends - Having friends at work is good for employees and beneficial to the health of the organization. Coordinating in-person schedules not only with teammates but also friends outside of your direct team, enhances the experience in a place. The benefits of working with people you like will be most impactful when time for lunch or coffee is planned on your calendar.

  • Co-Working Meet Ups - If working from a "Third space" interests you - Organize a group of co-workers, friends, or neighbors to meet up regularly at a café. Working side by side with people in a new space can reduce the burden of certain tasks.

The sense of community created from in-person activities and post-event engagement, pulls in employees, enhancing likelihood of attending future events, and re-establishing relationships.

From our interviews with clients and industry leaders, we have seen the best results when office attendance is linked to a regularly occurring team ritual. Common work-related rituals include team and all-hands meetings, senior or middle manager workshops, annual holiday/festive type events, and guest speakers.

In two exemplary case studies, the combination of meaningful work-related events, combined with company provided refreshments, two days per week, created a shift in regular weekly attendance, at the time of writing. For one company following this approach, they have seen on average nearly 50% occupancy, at a time when most companies are hovering around 30% occupancy. In-person events are most successful when they are well communicated in advance and again after the event to share images and stories.

Taking Action

Organizations who support employees in creating new location habits, have seen an elevation in employee driven outcomes.

Engaging a skilled workplace strategist and change manager can support employees and organizations in changing processes and habits, reducing barriers to in-person experiences.

Pairing in-person events with existing team rituals and appreciation can help build loyalty and belonging within your company's culture. We have seen success in organizations that engage cross-functional teams in strategy workshops or focus groups which double as team building and a means for innovation.

Creating a strategy for the design of your workplace with a specialist, can ensure your design reflects and enhances work activities, building relevance and encouraging return visits. Providing spaces that support group gathering, collaboration, and team socialization, will support these use cases in which we are seeing a natural pull.

Consider new models of real estate, to include geographically dispersed flex, coworking, or third spaces, to ensure your organization gets the benefits of in-person interaction, in line with the preferences of your employees. By including work opportunities and events in alternate locations as well as the company office, employees can meet each other while making spatial associations with your organization's brand and culture.

Through the use of engagement tools and analytics, workplace specialists can understand the most productive location and collaborative needs of teams, making recommendations for beneficial in-person experiences. Working with a workplace consultant can uncover the needs of your workforce and draw out relevant insights and trends. Understanding this data about your organization can bring closer attunement between your workers and place strategies.

Employees desire a change of scenery, socialization, and resources. Through understanding how this desire appears in your workforce, companies can create a strategy for in-person activities that enhances culture and organizational health.


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