Note: This article was originally published for Owl Labs and can be found here.
It pays dividends to create a workplace with a positive employee experience. But, what happens if your workplace isn’t just a physical office?
With 62% of respondents from Owl Lab’s State of Remote Work 2019 Report working remotely at least some of the time and 24% of respondents willing to take a 10% pay cut if it meant they could work remotely, it’s evident that offering the option to work out of the office is not only popular, but it’s a necessary part of recruitment and retention efforts, and when addressing employee satisfaction as a whole.
Working “remotely” can mean a lot of different things depending on an organization, a team, or even an individual employee. Today, the work that used to require physical attendance at an assigned desk can typically be completed anywhere with a laptop or tablet. Work is flexible. Work is portable. This means working from anywhere is easier than ever before and manifests in different ways. Remote work can mean having teams with flexible schedules beyond a normal 9 to 5 set up, a fully or partly remote workforce, employees distributed in different offices across the world, or another type of hybrid in/out of office set up.
Bridging the gap between in and out of office work
One through-line with “work from anywhere” movement is that almost any set up involves working part of the time in a remote setting and part of the time in a typical office setting. Focusing on seamlessly bridging the gap between the two experiences is key for employee satisfaction as a whole. Certain amenities, technology, and cultural initiatives can improve the workplace experience for employees no matter what kind of team they’re working on or how frequently they set foot in a physical workplace.
It’s not enough to install a new coffee maker or institute casual Friday and assume employees feel satisfied and supported by their workplace. Especially when it comes to addressing the popularity of remote work, IT, Facilities, HR, and Ops teams need to work in tandem to support employee productivity and well-being in and out of the office. By humanizing interpersonal interactions, reducing stress-inducing pain points and promoting wellness for an entire workforce - remote or not - an organization’s commitment to workplace experience will be evident to employees.
We outlined solutions to improve workplace experience both in and out of the office, focusing on those that help connect the two experiences.
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Humanizing interpersonal interactions
There’s no getting around awkward encounters in the workplace. Uncomfortable hallway small talk knows no bounds and it would be safe to say, is seen in all workplaces. Using “thirdspaces” or areas designed to feel like a crossroads between home and work, can help alleviate the social pressure around office interactions. Thirdspaces, like cafes, lounges, outdoor seating areas, or cozy lobbies, can help make a workplace feel more homey, casual, and well-suited for casual run-ins. These types of spaces most directly affect employees in-office but have the added benefit of making a workplace feel more approachable and comfortable for remote employees visiting the office.
2. Visitor management systems
We’ve all been here: Heading into an interview, you reach the lobby and have no idea where you’re supposed to go or the name of the person you were supposed to interview with. Visitor management systems make for an easy hand-off between visitors or interviewees and employees in an office. For employees who typically work in an office, they won’t have to stress about when their visitor will be stopping by since they’ll be alerted as soon as they arrive. This makes the first touchpoint for a visitor a smooth process so both people can bypass awkward logistics and get to the matter at hand.
3. Participating in company events
Creating an atmosphere where remote employees feel like they are a part of and contribute to company culture is essential. Going the extra mile to invite employees to company events -- big or small -- makes a difference for remote workers. Whether it’s a swanky holiday party or a costume contest for Halloween, helping remote employees participate either in person or virtually promotes positive company culture for an entire workforce.
4. Video conferencing software
Though there is a myriad of online tools for collaboration, nothing quite compares to video conferencing when it comes to creating a real human connection. In fact, 96% of respondents from Owl Lab’s study either agree or strongly agree that video conferencing is effective for improving the connectedness of remote team members. The Meeting Owl is ideal for creating a more natural, human touch to a typical video conference because it swivels to focus on whoever’s talking, much like people do when they’re in in-person meetings.
Reducing stressful office pain points
1. Interactive office maps
Whether it’s a large screen kiosk in an office lobby or an app on every employees’ phone, interactive maps make finding and using office resources simple. Office maps show employees at a glance which spaces are available and at what times, avoiding wasted time circling the office for a free space. Maps also benefit employees who aren’t typically in the office because they can use them to navigate with confidence without having to ask “where does Michael sit?” every time they stop in the office.
Organizing an office by neighborhoods takes the workplace and makes it a more bite-sized experience for employees. Oftentimes, neighborhoods are used for a certain department, team, or project group to sit together and use the shared resources provided specifically for them. This set up alleviates the social anxiety around navigating an entire office when everything -- different workspaces, technology, and relevant people -- are all in one, consolidated area. Again, this benefits remote employees too when they stop in the office because they only need to master one section of a workplace instead of an entire floor or building.
3. VPN or hot spots
If you’ve ever worked remotely you know how awkward it is when you can’t access your email or your video call keeps breaking up. For an organization with remote employees that need to be able to access company data efficiently, arming those employees with VPN and hot spot tech can make a huge difference in their day-to-day productivity. This kind of support wipes away the stress associated with the cost of these tools and the awkward repercussions if they don’t have them. No more leaving your in-office colleagues staring at a frozen face on the screen as you disconnect and reconnect to the coffee shop WiFi for the third time.
4. Subsidized work environments
Whether it’s providing remote employees a stipend for coffee or subsidizing a desk at a coworking space, offering “work from anywhere” options when it comes to their workplace is paramount. In-office employees value variety in the types of workspaces provided in their office, so it makes sense to extend the same variety and choice to employees working outside the office.
Provide space designated to wellness
1. Areas to recharge
Employees crave the ability to relax and refresh during a typical workday. In fact, this was reported as one of the areas employees tend to feel the least support from their employers (Leesman). Whether it’s a soft seat in a quiet corner, a couch placed looking out of a window, or even a meditation booth, offering employees areas to recharge are key in improving workplace experience in an office setting. Make this perk accessible to “work from anywhere” colleagues by sending them a blanket or pillow and suggesting they designate a space in their work area for relaxation.
2. Wellness programs
As organizations focus more on mental health to prevent burnout, wellness programs are becoming more commonplace. With every $1 investment in mental health promotion having a $3 to $5 return on investment, there are significant economic implications of America’s currently high levels of absenteeism, presenteeism, and lost productivity resulting from mental health issues. These issues don’t stop within the four walls of a workplace. When offering wellness programs like speaker presentations or subsidized gym memberships, make sure these are accessible for remote workers too.
3. Flexible schedules
Many employees choose to work remote either some or all of the time because it fits better with their personal lives. “Flexible work schedules can help to decrease stress, ease the burdens of the expense of childcare, and help employees avoid lengthy commutes” (Owl Labs). It’s unrealistic to expect all employees at a workstation from 9 to 5 during a typical workday. Instead, within reasonable bounds, allow in-office and remote employees to work on a flexible schedule that allows them to work when they’re most productive during the day.
Workplace experience is all about providing employees with the spaces, technology, and resources they need to be productive and happy. With 62% of employees working off-site at least some of the time, workplace experience must extend beyond the office and into the homes, coffee shops, coworking solutions, airports, or satellite offices of “work from anywhere” employees.