Employee expectations have changed drastically since the pandemic. Over the past decade, companies began to prioritize the workplace experience, employing office designers to create spaces for employees to do their best work.
Robin, a Boston-based company dedicated to changing how people think about the workplace, defines workplace experience as a “proactive and human-centered approach to office design, technology, and culture to help everyone understand, use, and advance their workplace.” It can also be defined as the lived day-to-day experience of employees in the office.
The workplace experience encompasses:
Flexible and agile workspaces
Safety and employee comfort
Visibility for employees, independent of work location
Recruitment and retention efforts
Utilization of office spaces
Spaces design with employee needs in mind
Transparency in the workplace
It also covers remote employee experience, office design and its impact on employee performance, and employee turnover and retention rates. Workplace experience strategy is the intentional design of workspaces to increase employee retention and improve overall employee experience in the office.
In 2021, a PwC report showed that 50% of CEOs in the U.S are updating their workplace for the purposes of standing out to potential candidates, specifically “digital talent.” The report revealed that employees want more flexibility from the work environment and more “meaningful interactions at work.”
The future of workplace experience is office buildings and spaces designed for changing employee needs. When spaces are designed to be multipurpose and flexible, they can more easily serve a variety of employee preferences.
How does workplace experience factor into workplace strategy and design?
The experience in the workplace is directly affected by workplace strategy and design. Without critical thinking that analyzes the ways in which office spaces can impact employee comfort, practical aspects of space use, and efficiency, corporate spaces are left unused or they create uncomfortable situations for employees.
The risks of a weak workplace strategy include sunk costs of underutilized office spaces, lower employee morale, less productivity, and an impact on overall company performance. When employees don’t have the amenities they need to be productive, their work is negatively affected which leads to lower output across the board, reducing company ROI.
In a hybrid workplace, there is a greater need for strategic workplace experience considerations. How will on-site employees communicate with remote team members? How will facility managers plan for attendance, utility use and predict office usage? Are CRE managers involved in office planning? With employees using spaces in even more varied ways than they have in the past, there needs to be a dedicated team to oversee office use and areas for improvement.
In a post-pandemic workplace, office managers, facility managers, CRE teams, HR and people managers, and workplace strategists will work together closely to first identify and then fulfill the needs of their employees.
How a workplace experience strategy impacts ROI
The average office space costs companies around $40 per square foot. Using office spaces effectively and right-sizing real estate portfolios that aren’t optimized for their current users and employee behaviors can save companies millions of dollars per year in real estate costs.
Fresenius, a healthcare solutions company, implemented their workplace strategy by collecting office utilization data. After analyzing the results of the space use survey, they realized that they were paying for a lease for a building that was rarely used. Once they updated their CRE portfolio, they saved $6 million dollars in annual real estate fees and enhanced the employee experience.
When employees are engaged at work, they may reveal office use patterns that don’t align with employer expectations or predictions using outdated reports. Companies who want to make the most cost-effective use of their corporate offices can use real-time data to guide decisions. A data-driven approach to workplace experience and design leads to improved employee engagement and retention.
How Companies are Prioritizing the Workplace Experience
To show a dedicated investment in an ongoing effort to improve the workplace led by specialists, companies are hiring workplace strategists. Hired to question the status quo, workplace experience experts use data-driven workplace design strategies to improve office utilization and employee engagement.
Here are the top workplace strategy roles that companies are hiring for in 2022 and where they fit into the overall company goals and challenges.
1. Workplace Strategist
Workplace strategists foster a sense of community and understand the needs of all employees, working closely with HR. They also seek out ways to make processes more efficient and work with building management to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
A workplace planner or workplace experience team leader is responsible for the team who drives company culture. A bridge between human resources, employee experience, and office and facility management, as well as a strong focus on systems and smart office technology, workplace experience teams have a goal of engagement with spaces.
A workplace planner or team lead can initiate workplace design updates, employee experience programs, and other physical and team culture changes to improve day-to-day life for all individuals.
Avanade notes in their description for a workplace experience director that “68% [of employees] feel their job is harder because of legacy systems and processes,” and that almost 8 in 10 CIOs predict changes in workplace design, company culture, and mindset. As a workplace experience director for this company, expectations include implementing changes to improve the workplace and transform the employee experience.
5. Workplace Design Specialist
As a workplace designer, working with engineering teams and CRE teams helps to guide the bigger picture and global view of existing infrastructure and design possibilities, but conversations with HR and workplace data expose the areas that need to be addressed. Workplace design specialists are innovative and creative roles with the ability to make decades-long awaited changes to office spaces to better serve their current and future users.
Hybrid work has created a need for workplace experience to have its own team and look at company processes with a fresh perspective, incorporating data into creative and aesthetic decisions. To understand current office trends and identify opportunities for strategic leadership, explore VergeSense’s Q3 2021 Hybrid Workplace Data Report.