Even before the pandemic, what employees expected of their employer was gradually becoming more and more demanding. The old-fashioned ideal that work was a means to an end and ultimately a way of paying the bills had been banished. In its place came a greater emphasis on social, ethical and wellbeing concerns, and what work actually meant to people.
Then COVID-19 came along, with all the impacts on the world of work that it generated. And while those employee desires didn’t recede, they did move onto a different track. Suddenly, many employees became much more aware of their work/life balance, and the bigger picture of how work fitted into everything and everyone else in their lives. Equally suddenly, employers became expected to cater for these changes, and give employees the flexibility and support they were crying out for.
All this has a knock-on effect on how businesses operate day-to-day, how employees collaborate with each other, and how employees can maximize their productivity.
At Condeco, we recently published a guide on employee experience and collaboration, which takes a look at how interpersonal work has changed over the last year or two.
In this article, we’ll explore three of the key topics within it, and what businesses can do to put new ideas around collaboration and productivity into action.
1. Employee experience
Those changing priorities of employees have had an effect on the experiences they want when they come into work from the office. Those who were forced into remote work by the pandemic, and who found they quite like the solitude, personal space and flexibility it gives them, will take some convincing to return to office work even on a partial basis.
Ultimately, it needs to be worth their while to spend the time and money to work from the office. This means the office must provide a strong experience, including the availability of workspaces that suit their preferences, and the infrastructure to seamlessly move from home work to office work and vice versa.
The good news is that, in the main, businesses have recognized this: research from isolved has found that 92% of HR leaders feel that employee experience is a top priority. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ‘employee experience’ because every business and every employee is different. Understanding specific employee needs through data and analytics is vital to know exactly what changes to make to deliver experiences that resonate positively throughout the workforce.
2. Organic collaboration
Many employees may say that they prefer remote working, and at face value, this is absolutely true. But what they may not be realizing is that they are missing out on valuable education and job knowledge through the chance conversations that spring up during the course of a normal day in the office.
Indeed, a study by Finland’s Institute of Occupational Health found that 54% of employees frequently came across useful information or ideas at work purely by chance. Losing out on these can have a significant negative effect on career development, especially for younger employees who are just starting out, and the study’s results suggest that women would lose out more than men in this area.
For employers, this means that there is a balance to be struck: employees have every right to flexibility in their working arrangements, but at the same time, they should still be given the opportunity to work face-to-face with their co-workers as much as possible.
3. Removing barriers through technology
Some of the issues around employee experience can be solved with technology rather than through a more human or ergonomic approach.
For example, many organizations want to make flexible working as seamless as possible by making home and office experiences as similar as they possibly can be. Digital equality software aims to replicate organic contact for those working remotely, either through informal video group chats or through randomized video calls which pair people together by chance.
On a more practical level, software can also help people organize their working days, wherever and whenever they’re working, and ensure they can keep in touch with co-workers throughout. Collaboration tools like Slack have really come into their own as flexible working has gained traction, while workspace management and booking platforms help remove the stress and uncertainty from days in the office.